Title: Bravo Zulu
Author: Felicia F.
Written: December 1999

Category: JAG/XF crossover
Timeline In JAG, before Mr. Rabb Goes to Washington. In XF, after Rain King, before SR 819. In real life (what am I saying-those are real life), it takes place in early January 1999.
Rating: PG-13
Feedback: I crave it!!! Please send it to fergufl@yahoo.com.
Disclaimer: Not mine, wish they were (Boy, do I wish they were. Can you imagine the money I would have!) JAG and all its characters belong to CBS and David Bellisario. XF and its people belong to FOX and the folks at 1013.

Summary: Mac and Harm team up once again with Mulder and Scully to investigate the unexplained deaths of a Navy SEALs unit.

Author's Note: You can visit and all of my stories at https://web.archive.org/web/20080615043953/http://www.slbrown.com/felicia/xfiles/index.html

FBI Headquarters
Washington, D.C.
0930 Romeo

The bull pen in the Hoover Building buzzed with life. Agents dashed around desks, paused and hovered collectively over files, then separated once more to chase down new theories. A rash of kidnappings involving teenage victims in D.C. had just recently been given the FBI's full attention. Twenty agents from the area had been assigned to the case.

Unfortunately for two agents, their inclusion on the investigation was deemed unnecessary by their superior. Fox Mulder glanced around the room, a look of disgust marring his otherwise handsome features. 'Scores of police detectives, more than a dozen field agents, two profilers from the VCS, and what are Scully and I doing?' he thought caustically. 'Frigging background checks.'

He let his breath out in a rush. Hearing his frustration, Mulder's partner, Dana Scully, looked up from the papers neatly stacked on her nearby desk. A flash of sympathy passed over her features before she cautioned, "Mulder..."

He glanced over his shoulder at her and nodded his head resignedly. They hadn't been out in the field in over a month and he was, admittedly, getting antsy. More than that though, this imposed exile from the X-Files was beginning to grate on his nerves. They were being brought to heel by their new superior, A.D. Kersch, and they well knew it. No more jaunts across the U.S. chasing down aliens or madmen bent on devouring people for nourishment. Instead, the pair was now relegated to interviewing potential federal workers about their marijuana use. Amidst the mounting, and very tedious, paperwork, Scully often found herself longing for a giant flukeworm or two.

Ignoring the file on one Charlie Bingley, a young college grad with aspirations of becoming an ATF agent, Scully allowed her eyes to drift along Mulder's back, willing the tense lines she found there to soften. He could feel her soothing gaze trace over him, and, incredibly, some of the tension did ease. His lips curved ever so slightly despite his current annoyance. How she did that, he would never know. With one look, she could ease his worries, and then, a second later, heat his blood. At one time, he would have chalked it up to their long- standing partnership, or their unusual bond. But lately, he had recognized his reaction was due to something else entirely; something he was sure she had yet to realize, or at least, didn't realize on a conscious level. The truth had revealed itself to him in the strangest of places: on a carrier ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The noise in the bull pen softened a notch, pulling Mulder from his reverie. He looked up and found the source of the interruption standing before him, eyes hardened with irritated resolve. "Mulder, Scully. My office. Now," Assistant Director Kersch ordered. He brusquely turned away, fully expecting the two agents to quickly respond. Scully glanced at her partner, both eyebrows raised as if asking, "What did we do now?" Mulder shrugged as he grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair, then gestured for her to precede him. As they walked in tandem toward the A.D.'s office, Mulder caught himself staring at the cap of red hair, which gleamed in the fluorescent light. 'Okay, so maybe I do gaze at her,' he thought wryly.

They passed by Kersch's secretary silently, sparing her only a glance as they entered the man's inner sanctum. He was seated behind his Bureau-issued desk, his eyes narrowed with irritation. The pair moved to stand in front of him; no offer was made for them to sit down. Scully darted a look at her partner. 'This can't be good.' Mulder responded in kind, 'Don't look at me. I haven't done anything ... lately.'

Kersch cleared his throat and pursed his lips. "An incident has occurred at the office of Naval Research and I have been <requested> to assign two agents to help with the JAG investigation," his normally deep voice had taken on a biting edge. "Specifically, you two." He glanced from agent to agent with a quick flick of his eyes, noting their lack of response. "Apparently, the Navy's Judge Advocate General was impressed with your previous work--a matter concerning a Lt. David Anderson." A sour expression crossed his face as he glanced down at the file on his desk.

"You'll receive further information from the JAG lawyers as soon as you get there." He paused and stared hard at each agent. "I need not tell you that I am not overly pleased with this circumstance, but it seems that my objections have been overruled."

Mulder shot a sideways glance at Scully, his surprise evident only to her. This, indeed, was interesting news. Scully answered him with a barely perceptible eyebrow lift.

"The paperwork is finished and you two are free to go as soon as possible. Your current assignment can wait until you get back." With a curt nod and a stern, "That will be all," the two agents were dismissed. Mulder caught his partner's gaze as they moved toward the door. Their eyes tossed ideas back and forth as to why Kersch's power was so suddenly usurped. The subject of their ardent discussion of sorts interrupted them just as they reached the door, "Agent Mulder. Agent Scully." They both turned back to the seated man. "Behave yourselves," he admonished sternly as if speaking to two errant children.

Mulder's lips tightened into a slight grimace as Scully opened the door. His hand settled into its usual place at the small of her back as the two left the room as soundlessly as they had entered.

VA Hospital
Arlington, Virginia
0948 Romeo

The steady beat of the life support machines lulled the man awake. 'If I can just be quiet. Maybe it won't know,' he thought desperately. Suddenly, an agonizing pain seized through him, racking his body with spasms. 'Oh, God! Oh God! I can't do this! I can't take any more of the pain!' His mind knew he was screaming. His lips had even formed the words. Yet, no sound emerged.

He could hardly even breathe. With every shuddering intake, his lungs burned, his throat ached. He could feel it devouring him. Could almost feel the tiny rips slicing his cells open against their will; the invader eating away at their insides. Munching on DNA, slurping up cytoplasm, then picking the ribosomes out of its "teeth" with a leftover mitochondria. Was this how they had felt? Those brave SEALs who had only asked to serve their country? Had they been as terrified by this thing they couldn't fight? Couldn't even see except by high-powered electron microscopes?

And the pain. Oh, God, the pain. He had given and received high doses of Demerol, Phenobarbital--and eventually, Morphine--
in an effort to dull even just a bit of the pain. Nothing had worked. And so he lay there, just as those soldiers before him had, the pain slowly killing him; stealing his will to live. 'He's going to win now. With this he can rule the world.'

It had all been so simple, so clear. He had understood. And now, it was ... what was it? He bit his lip as the spasms racked his body once more. When the pain ebbed, he noticed a metallic taste in his mouth and slipped his tongue out to lick away the blood he knew he would find. But this time, it wasn't there.

He tried to pull his tongue back, but his mouth was suddenly filled with blood and that awful, rending pain as more cells joined the ranks of their dying or dead comrades. He tried to scream; one more rage against an unfair killer, a killer who used guerrilla tactics to its advantage. Once again, nothing. The only sound echoing through the empty ICU room was the steady tone of the life support as it heralded a flat line.

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
1040 Romeo

"Look at it this way, Mulder," Scully soothed as the pair rode the elevator up to the third floor. "At least he let us out of the building for a few days. <And> it's official so there's no threat of an ass-chewing when we get back."

"Ooh, Scully, are you offering?" Mulder leered as he leaned closer to her, his nose just grazing her temple. Scully held perfectly still, the whisper-light feel of his breath danced across her cheek. a moment later, he pulled back, seemingly unaware of his effect on her. "At any rate," he continued, "I wonder who the higher authority was."

Scully had recovered from her breathless state enough to reply, "The admiral maybe?" She looked up to the numbers, which lit up the floor levels. This elevator was taking way too long. She moved slightly away from her partner, praying he wouldn't notice and thereby be hurt by her subtle, but desperate action. She had to do something; these close confines heightened her senses to an almost dangerous level. Normally, the effect of his close proximity was something she could pigeon-hole into a small part of her brain and force herself to ignore.

Ever since that kiss on the carrier, though, things had taken a subtle, but definite shift. As if both knew the inevitability of their partnership's eventual progression, but neither wanted to force the issue. To bring to light something that would be impossible to pigeon-hole and ignore once started. Especially since neither was certain his feelings were requited.

"Harm mentioned that Chegwidden had a lot of clout, but I didn't realize it would extend to the FBI." The elevator dinged as the doors slid open, forestalling any answer Scully might have given. She moved toward the glass doors boasting "Judge Advocate General." Mulder followed slightly behind and to the left of her, his hand planted lightly at her back. Even this gentlemanly gesture now held more feeling, more heat, than in all the previous years. Scully reveled in the warmth imprinted at the small of her back.

The room's atmosphere, though less frenetic than the one they had recently left, still moved at a steady pace. Scully approached a blonde woman who peered intently at a file. The agent greeted, "Excuse me, we're from the FB..." her words died as the officer turned to answer. "Tara?" Scully asked, confusion evident on her Irish features. "What are you.."

The woman looked blankly back at the red head and apologized, "I'm sorry, I'm Ensign Sims, um, Harriet. You must be the FBI agents." She smiled easily, the glow of pregnancy radiating from her face.

"No--uh--yes," Scully stammered, "I'm, um, mistaken, but you bear a striking resemblance to my sister-in-law."

Ensign Sims' eyebrows lifted with surprise. "Really? I'll have to tell Bud that one." She grinned once more at the pair, then gestured to the far door. "The admiral's waiting for you. He told me to get Lt. Commander Rabb and Major MacKenzie as soon as you two got here. Go on in." The woman left the pair standing in the middle of the room off in search of the two lawyers. Scully's jaw was still slightly agape, not having fully recovered from her shock. Mulder softly whistled the Twilight Zone theme behind her. His partner took a deep breath and mentally shook herself. 'That was just too weird,' she thought as her eyes followed the ensign's path to Mac's office.

"Come on, we mustn't keep the admiral waiting. After all, he <is> the one we have to thank for springing us," Mulder urged as he lightly gripped her elbow, steering her toward the door.

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
1058 Romeo

Admiral A.J. Chegwidden savagely poked the speaker button on his phone to disconnect the most recent call. 'Damn you, Webb!' he silently cursed. 'MY people are not assigned to clean up detail!' Clayton Webb was ostensibly a representative from the state department, though A.J., and most of the office, suspected some link to the CIA. The admiral shook his head as he heaved an exasperated sigh. 'Damn the man. If this case wasn't hard enough already, I now have <him> breathing down my neck.' Closing his eyes, he took in a calming breath and willed his pulse to slow. Although he was in excellent shape, it wouldn't do to have a heart attack just because Clayton Webb was annoying. A.J. wouldn't give him the satisfaction.

"Aw, hell," he murmured softly as he rested his chin on his fist. He glanced at the clock on his desk and noted that Mulder and Scully should have been briefed by now. He reached for the intercom to page Tiner just as someone rapped twice on his office door. "Come!" barked the admiral as he moved his attention from the phone to a pile of papers scattered over his desk. The door quietly opened revealing the two FBI agents. They remained in the doorway, waiting until they were invited in.

"Sir?" Agent Scully prodded, her military upbringing evident in her bearing. 'I wonder how many times she said that word before gaining entrance into her father's office?' the admiral pondered idly.

"Yes, come on in. It's good to see you two again," Chegwidden greeted. "I must say that getting you assigned to this detail was like breaking into Fort Knox. I actually had to call in a favor with the Attorney General."

'Mystery number one solved,' Mulder thought wryly.

"We've been reassigned. Our new supervisor would like to keep a close eye on our performance," Scully responded diplomatically.

Mulder glanced down at her sardonically, 'That's one way of putting it'

Her eyes drifted upward, caught his gaze, and the debate commenced, 'We're not saying any more than that, Mulder.'

'The man had to use a favor from the Attorney General. How ridiculous can this <reassignment> get?'

'We're here now. Let's concentrate on this case. Kersch will be waiting when we get back.'


Chegwidden watched the pair silently battle their way to a compromise. Though, by the looks of Mulder, Scully won more of the war. The admiral opened his mouth to comment on the situation when someone knocked on his door. Instead of voicing his observation, his mouth formed the word, "Come!"

The door was opened once more. This time, Rabb and MacKenzie stood at the threshold; their stances reminiscent of those so recently held by their FBI counterparts. Chegwidden had to smother a grin as he gestured for the lawyers to join them. "Rabb, MacKenzie. You remember Agents Mulder and Scully."

Mac smiled warmly at the pair as Harm nodded his head briefly. "I have once again requested some external help. On this case, Agent Scully's expertise as a forensic pathologist will come in handy. This is a high priority and completely classified until further notice. The information is 'need to know' only." He paused a moment, allowing the situation's gravity to thoroughly sink in. The admiral looked down at the papers on his desk before continuing, his tone stark, "The Office of Naval Research has had an accident in one of their labs. One scientist is dead; three are in ICU in critical condition." He took in the shocked faces of his officers and was intrigued by the curiosity found in the agents' eyes. 'I forgot. This is nothing new to them,' he thought, suddenly very glad he had chosen a career in the military instead of following his first urge to enter the FBI after his years as a SEAL.

"Prior to the official beginning of Desert Fox, an elite team of Navy SE.ALs was sent into Iraq to recon several of Saddam's laboratories. They were hoping to give the Navy commanders better information about their targets and, therefore, further decrease civilian casualties. As you know, America isn't very popular in the Arab states. We wanted to move quickly and decisively, but also carefully so as not to further alienate the people. Our conflict is with Saddam, not necessarily his people."

Mulder inwardly smiled, thinking how accurately the admiral simulated the recent soundbytes, which now echoed in space. The officer continued, oblivious to the agent's idle observation. "As you know, Saddam was long suspected of having rebuilt his chemical plants after Desert Storm. Satellite surveillance detected suspicious evidence that the facility in Bayji was rebuilt on the old foundation. The men were sent in to confirm the plant's production abilities and surprised a group of scientists, who just happened to be working late.

"The Iraqis, to defend themselves from a potential assault, released a substance, which is thought to be Saddam's latest experimental biological weapon." Chegwidden paused once more. He watched silently as Mulder's brow furrowed and Scully blinked once in surprise, then looked at her partner to determine if she really had heard the admiral correctly. The lawyers shared an equally shocked look.

Before they could recover enough to bombard him with questions, the admiral continued. "At the time of the recon, none of the officers showed immediate effects. The scientists were subdued, the operation was successful, and you know the outcome of the mission. It wasn't until a month later that the men started dropping dead, literally, in their tracks. They had been boning up on their weapon diffusion skills when the group's leader, Lt Cmdr. George Knight, suddenly collapsed. He was taken immediately to the hospital where multiple and comprehensive tests were done. What the doctors found, quite frankly, scared the hell out of them."

Scully raised an inquiring eyebrow, eager to hear the results. The others though less educated in the field of medicine, were equally curious.

"I'm not a physician, so I think, Agent Scully, we would be better served by you explaining the findings." Chegwidden picked up a few loose pieces of paper. The large scrawl of a physician's hand branded the bottom of each page. The woman moved forward to take the proffered items, and froze as her eyes were drawn to a black and white image. Her brow furrowed as she looked at the file, then looked again. She skimmed the next few pages and, with each page turn, her jaw dropped a fraction more.

"Oh my God," she murmured softly, "Mulder."

"What?" he asked just as softly as he moved closer to her, trying to see what she saw.

"The report. And ... and ... this picture. This is a tissue cell from the man's abdominal wall. The destruction is massive. More so than any type of cancer. It's almost as if it's ..."

"What?" he prodded.

"Mulder," she looked up from the paper and locked her eyes with his, "he was eaten alive."

"Repeat that again?" Mac prompted, her eyes wide with shock.

Scully nodded slowly. "I'll have to look over the test results and see some of the samples myself, but according to the naval doctor who examined him, whatever did this, acted quickly and effectively. If I were to design something to attack and destroy the body, this is exactly what it would be." She pointed to a series of black and white photos of small, white disc-like shapes. "I'm not sure how much you know about human physiology, but these are healthy tissue cells." She moved her finger to the next frame. "This is what happened when whatever it was attacked them." Scully traced around what looked to be floating, white fragments. "It literally tore the individual cells apart in a matter of hours. It says in the autopsy report that his abdominal cavity was a mass of blood. Not even the remains of organs were found. Cancer cells can take months, up to years, to infect on this large a scale. And even then, this level of destruction never happens."

"What do you mean?" Harm asked. "I thought cancer cells ate their way through the body."

"That's just it. 'Cells,"' Scully explained, launching into lecture mode. "With cancer, when cells are created, the parent cell goes through a process known as 'doubling,' in which an exact copy is made. Sometimes, however, outside factors, such as the use of carcinogens, or even, potentially, biology, activate the genes which are predisposed to cancer. These cancerous cells then multiply just like a normal cell."

"What about a virus?" Mac asked, peering over the agent's shoulder to get a better look at the file.

Scully shook her head. "Viruses infect by taking over cells and multiplying. What we have here," she continued, indicating the photos, "is a systematic destruction. The cells are physically ripped to shreds."

"Have you ever seen anything like this before?" the admiral asked, his face intent.
Scully slowly shook her head, "No, sir. Never." Her gaze shot to Mulder and, seeing the obvious question there, said, 'No, it's not what infected the firemen in Dallas. This is different. This is worse.' He nodded, accepting her analysis.

"So what are you saying?" Harm asked, his eyes narrowed.

She looked intently at each of the officers, her gaze finally resting on her partner. "I'm saying that this man died a horrible, and very painful, death. His body was ripped apart down to the very molecule."

JAG Headquarters
1105 Romeo

Lt. jg Bud Roberts, a law student who aided Rabb and MacKenzie in their research and investigation of cases, scurried over to his wife as she walked back to her desk from Major MacKenzie's office. The major and Commander Rabb had just finished knocking on Chegwidden's door and were commanded to enter a moment later. "Harriet! Do you know who that is?" Bud whispered excitedly, indicating the suited pair, who were now visible as Harm and Mac entered the office.

"They're FBI agents," she remarked, puzzled by her husband's reaction.

"They're not <just> FBI agents! That's Fox Mulder! He works on the X-Files. He investigates UFO sightings. I read a profile of him in last month's edition of 'The Lone Gunmen.'"

Harriet rolled her eyes with exasperation. Now she would never hear the end of this. She loved him dearly, but the man went overboard whenever someone mentioned his favorite past-time: UFOs.

"That's his partner, Dana Scully. She wasn't profiled, but she was mentioned in the article. She's a medical doctor. Oh, I can't wait to meet them!" Bud hopped anxiously from one foot to the other like a child desperate for a glimpse of his favorite movie star.

"She's a doctor, huh? Maybe she needs to get her eyes checked. She thought I was her sister-in-law."

Bud's brow furrowed as he looked around the room then leaned toward her to whisper, "Are you?"


"Because you know these things could happen. They could even be here to investigate you!" He stepped away from her, his eyes wide. "Where's the real Harriet?" Bud asked, his voice raising a notch with slight panic.

Harriet, sensing she wasn't going to convince him with words, grabbed her husband's hand and lay it on her stomach. She placed her other hand behind his neck and firmly pulled him closer to kiss him lightly. He pulled away a moment later, basking in the sheer happiness that enveloped him. "No," he sighed, "you're definitely you."

Harriet gazed at him fondly, a slight bemused smile tickling her lips. "Oh! Bud, did you feel that?" she asked as she pressed his hand harder on her abdomen.

His face lit up as he felt the movement. "The baby?"

Harriet nodded excitedly, "Mm hmm. Wait! There he--" she stopped with a shy smile "--or she--goes again!" Bud's grin widened until his face was nearly split in two.

The sound of someone clearing his throat broke the parents-to-be from their awe. Harriet jerked her head toward the source, her eyes widened with recognition. "Oh! Sorry, sir," she shyly glanced back down to Bud's hand, which still rested on her abdomen, the returned her gaze to the admiral. "The baby just kicked."

Try as he might, Chegwidden was not proof against such complete and utter happiness. His slightly disapproving gaze softened--just a bit. It made his task somewhat harder to do. A.J. knew the ensign worked hard to keep her pregnancy from interfering with work. This, however, was one instance when he would not be swayed by arguments from her or husband. "Lieutenant, Ensign, I know you two usually assist Commander Rabb and Major MacKenzie in their investigations. In this case, I think, your pregnancy might be at risk." He noticed their concerned faces and relaxed as he continued, "I'm assigning both of you to an AWOL case. Lt. Roberts, you'll be lead counsel. Ensign Sims, you'll assist at trial."

The elation on the younger man's face was, naturally, nothing compared to his earlier joy, but A.J. felt he was pleased nonetheless. Ensign Sims' pride in her husband beamed through as she watched his reaction.

"I won't let you down, sir," Roberts swore solemnly.

With a slight nod of his head, the admiral replied, "See that you don't." He turned before his slight smile could turn into a full-fledged grin and caught sight of the retreating backs of his two offices and the agents. His smile faded to a grimace. 'Dear God,' he thought, 'let them find out what the hell is going on. For that baby's sake. For everyone's sake.'

Office of Naval Research
Arlington, Virginia
1307 Romeo

Two blue-suited figures moved slowly but determinedly under the fluorescent lights of the Navy's Biosafety Level 4 research room. As one person reviewed slides under a microscope in the middle of the area, the other peered into vials and test tubes filled with a bright yellow compound. Few scattered comments passed between them; their concentration focused on their individual tasks.

"Excuse me, Captain Campbell?" a voice interrupted over the intercom. The figure bent over the microscope looked up, blinked once to refocus her eyes, and then moved to the window which separated the highly contagious atmosphere from what she laughingly called, 'the other world.'

"Yes, Lieutenant, what is it?"

"There are some people here to see you, ma'am," replied the young blond man. She sighed softly. JAG and the FBI. Her commander had briefed her on their impending visit when she had gotten in this morning. 'Great,' she thought, 'now I have to play science teacher instead of looking for cures.' Campbell nodded to the young man, her entire upper torso moving with her assent. She turned to her coworker and asked, "John, will you finish looking at this for me? And if you find anything-anything at all-"

He smiled through the plexiglass faceplate, "I'll call you. Go on. I know how much you love stomping out ignorance."

"Isn't that the truth," she muttered as she disconnected herself from the air supply and shuffled over to the decontamination room. As the pressurized streams of water and bleach pelted her body, she closed her eyes and allowed her thoughts to drift over what was now termed, "The SEAL Incident."

She hadn't been present when Knight had been brought to the VA hospital, but she had heard the scuttlebutt. It had taken hours to rinse away the mud that had seeped though his clothes on the training grounds. And towards the end of that time, the nurses began to realize more was washing away than just mud. Small bits and pieces of skin drifted along with the soap and water. Then later, small bits and pieces of organs joined them until nothing remained of his abdominal cavity but porous bone and pools of blood.

The doctors' first thought had been hemorrhagic fever or Ebola and had quarantined him as such. But then the test results had come back. For a man with those symptoms-disregarding the lack of orificial bleeding-the Ebola virus was conspicuously absent.

That's when she, Captain Joan Campbell, M.D., Ph.D, had been called in for a consult. And after looking at the tissue samples, the Navy's premier medical researcher had been just as baffled. The cells, instead of being infected and killed like a normal virus, were being physically shredded. She had never seen anything like it.

Then the others were admitted. One by one the team started dropping like flies. The tissue samples yielded the same results, but no body area was immune. Each SEAL presented with the same symptoms, but the infection-or whatever it was--targeted different body systems. She shuddered slightly as the spray ended, sending hundreds of tiny droplets flying. The last SEAL, Lt. Andy Williams, had hung on as long as possible, but with each day, his brain failed even more. Until it basically had caved in on itself.

Campbell felt the sudden rush of air as the dryer kicked in. Although each patient fascinated her, Lt. Williams intrigued her more than the others. The way the disease attacked his brain-its similarity to Parkinson's-was uncanny: lack of dopamine production, persistent tremors, slow onset and completion of movement. He had even been given Deprenyl as a countermeasure should this disease merely be manifesting an already present predisposition to Parkinson's. And yet, Joan herself had taken the samples and even autopsied the body. With Parkinson's, there was degeneration of the brain, yes, but not the extent Williams had suffered. When she had opened his skull, the only thing she'd found was a pool of blood .She let out a low gurgle of frustration. 'He's the key! I know it! I just can't see the connection!'

As the dryer shut off, she jerked the helmet of her contamination suit off forcefully then shook her head, loosening the sweat- dampened brown curls. 'I've looked at the data a hundred times and I still can't find it!' She snorted derisively. 'I'd bet Dana could. Damn woman could glance at a slide in med school and give you a past history on the patient dating back 10 years.' Campbell fumed for a moment, then took a calming breath. She didn't know what had made her think of her old nemesis. 'Take it easy, Joanie,' she soothed, 'she's miles away ensconced in her ivory tower at Johns Hopkins.'

<Your ivory tower,> her conscious chided. <or at least, it would have been if you hadn't crumbled under the pressure.> She shook her head forcefully, banishing the old hurt and insecurity to the nether region of her brain. "Get a grip," she murmured as she donned the fresh pair of blue scrubs she kept in her locker. She grabbed a nearby towel and ran it over her hair quickly then tossed it in a laundry bag as she headed out the door.

Campbell clipped her ID badge to the waistband of her scrubs, still brooding over things lost and missed opportunities. She turned the corner leading to the main entryway in search of her visitors when she was stopped mid- stride by a brick wall. A wall, which turned out to be tall and good-looking, though hardly made of brick. More like smooth muscle and dress whites. The formerly thought of brick wall smiled engagingly as he moved to steady her.

"Hi. Lt. Cmdr. Harmon Rabb. Sorry about that."

Campbell shook her head and a soft smile eased over her features. "My fault. Daydreaming. Can I help you? You look a little lost."

"I'm looking for Capt. Joan Campbell," he drawled as his eyes glanced downward to find her badge. "And it would appear I've found her."

"You're the JAG lawyer," she replied with slight distaste.

"You sound like you don't approve of my job."

"It's not that," she placated. "I suppose the Navy needs its lawyers as much as the rest of the world. It's just that lawyers have never done me any favors."

Harm nodded his understanding, his features softening with sympathy.

"So. Where's the rest of your crew?" Seeing his blank stare, she prodded, "The other lawyer and the FBI agents?"

Recognition dawned in his eyes and he replied, "They're in the waiting area. I pulled rank on the ensign out there so I could come back."

Her eyebrows lifted with surprise, "Really? I guess I should be flattered. But," she sobered quickly, "under the circumstances, you'll understand if I'm not."

Harm nodded, his face equally serious. He turned and walked with her to the double doors, which separated the facility from the waiting area.

As they neared the entrance, he reached over her shoulder to push open a door. Joan glanced back to flash him a quick smile of thanks. A smile which died as she spotted a petite red head who stood closely beside a tall dark haired man.

"Damn," she muttered, her earlier thoughts echoing back to her.

"Excuse me?" Harm asked, thinking he had misheard.

"Oh! I said, 'Dana,"' she covered.

"You know Agent Scully?"

'Agent?' she thought curiously. "Um, yeah, we went to med school together."

Harm's brow furrowed on hearing her once again cover another emotion. 'Wonder what happened between those two,' he thought as they neared the others. He noticed Scully's slightly pursed lips as he introduced the captain.

Mulder, more observant of his partner's demeanor, also wondered at the sudden tension he felt radiating off of her. He touched her elbow lightly, questioning. Scully darted a look at him, "Later," it said. He nodded imperceptibly, accepting the delay, and turned back to the woman in scrubs.

"Dana, long time no see. Still keeping company with the gorgeous ones." Scully bit the inside of her cheek refusing to rise to the bait. "Joan, it's good to see you again. I hadn't realized you went into the Navy."

"Well, my post at Johns Hopkins was filled-or so I thought," she replied, an eyebrow raising in question.

Mac, wanting to ease the tension between the two women, asked, "We were wondering if we could ask you some questions about the recent accident involving a team of SEALs and your researcher, Captain Robert Markham."

Campbell refocused her gaze on the major and forced herself to bite back her rancor. Even after all these years, and all of her accomplishments, Dana Scully still had the ability to rankle her-reopen old wounds-whether the agent realized it or not. 'Agent. Never in a million years would I have guessed she'd end up in the FBI.'

"Looking for someone to court martial? Accidental death, conduct unbecoming... am I on the right track?" she asked with a sardonic smile.

"We'd just like to know what happened," Mulder interjected. "After that, who knows."

Joan looked at the agent and nodded in answer to his statement then gestured for the group to follow her back through the double doors to her office.

Office of Naval Research
Captain Joan Campbell's desk
1336 Romeo

Campbell stood with her back to the investigators, her gaze focused on the swaying branches of the tree just outside her window. She heard someone flipping through the pages of the file on the mysterious killer and knew it had to be Dana. Only she would be able to fully comprehend the devastation that Joanie and the other researchers had found in the bodies of the SEALS. She waited. She knew soon enough that the agent's curiosity would get the better of her and the interrogation would start. 'What happened?' 'Why it's only this; why didn't you see it?' 'Really, Joan, I thought you were a better researcher than this!' Campbell closed her eyes against the wave of pain that washed over her and allowed her thoughts to drift back.

< "Dr. Campbell!" the attending physician had beckoned as she had stared at the frail and almost lifeless body of a seven year old boy. "Earth to Dr. Campbell!"

Joanie jerked out of her horror and looked back at Dr. Eugene Rustace, Director of the Pediatric Department at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. She felt the pink blush of embarrassment steal over her features and lowered her gaze to avoid the knowing eyes of the other interns.

"Well, since Dr. Campbell is too busy day dreaming, Dr. Scully, why don't you give us a brief run-down of the patient's symptoms and your recommendations for treatment."

Dana tossed a cursory look in Joanie's direction before proceeding with not only an accurate description of the patient, but also a well-thought out and perfect plan of action. And just like always, Joanie was left on the sidelines, once again ignored in favor of the bright and shining Dana Scully. >

A quick intake of breath pulled her from her self-flagellation. She turned back to find the group crowded around her desk, all eyes drawn to the color photos of the SEALs in the final grips of their devastation. The sallow skin loosening into thick folds, its elasticity gone. The arms and legs that were nothing but skin filled with blood; the bone and muscles had disappeared hours before. She didn't need to look at the pictures again-the images were burned on her brain where they would remain until the mystery was solved and a cure on the way.

"How did this happen?" MacKenzie softly murmured.

A bitter grin flitted across her face as the captain replied, "I don't know. I've charted the effects and no two patients were the same. It's almost as if the disease, or whatever it is, has a mind of its own."

"Or that it starts at the weakest part of the body and goes from there," Scully murmured thoughtfully.

'And here we go again. Dana Scully to the rescue!' Joan thought caustically.

Scully skimmed through the detailed notes under each picture, forcing herself to ignore the devastation and concentrate only on the scientific aspects. "You've done some good work here, Joan."

"You sound surprised," the researcher replied raising an eyebrow slightly.

Scully pursed her lips, stifling a sigh of resignation. 'She just isn't going to let go, is she?' The agent ignored the remark and, instead, heard Harm ask, "What did the SEALs say happened when they were debriefed?"

Joan shifted her gaze to the officer, embarrassment tingeing her features. 'Get a grip!' she yelled at herself. 'And while you're at it, grow up. She always was better than you; accept it and go on.' Aloud, she voiced, "Only that they interrupted a group of scientists. One of the Iraqis turned some kind of instrument on them, then the SEALs shot the men in retaliation."

"What kind of instrument?" asked Mulder, his gaze still focused over his partner's shoulder and on the file.

"They didn't know. All the leader could say was that it was cylindrical in shape, made of metal and had some type of control panel on the top of it. He maintained that it wasn't a weapon. At least not one that he had ever seen."

"Which means Saddam is still experimenting," Mac remarked.

"What could do this type of damage and on such a grand scale?" Scully asked rhetorically.

"And, this fast," Campbell added without rancor, trying to atone for her previous unprofessional behavior.

Scully accepted the peace offer with a slight twitch of her lips.

"I've ruled out Ebola, hemorrhagic fever, and all of the other types of fevers," Campbell continued.

"Why?" asked Mulder, his stance relaxing even as his partner's did on the appearance of a truce.

"No bleeding from the orificies, no fever..." the captain trailed off.

"What about this last man? Lt. Andy Williams?" prompted Harm. "You say here he died of Parkinson's."

The captain sighed audibly. "That's the biggest mystery of all. He didn't have any history of the disease, no symptoms whatsoever, until his second day in the hospital. From then on it progressed at a startling rate. Normally, Parkinson's takes years to manifest itself and then the rate of degeneration increases."

"Yes, but what does that have to do with whatever it was that he was exposed to?" Mac asked her confusion evident.

"I don't know. As of yet, we haven't found the cause of Parkinson's. The prevailing theory is genetics, but no one knows for sure."

"If he did have a genetic predisposition to this disease, what could accelerate the degeneration to a period of days instead of months or years'?" Mulder asked, his gaze moving from Campbell to Scully.

Scully's brow furrowed as she racked her brain searching for a possible answer. She called up her memory of past journal articles on the subject in her database of a brain, discarding obvious mismatches until she latched onto a potential candidate. As the likelihood of the choice's possibility settled through her brain, she blinked sharply.

"What?" Mulder murmured, searching her face knowing she had found an answer.

"No, there's no way," Scully muttered to herself. "The effects are too much, too fast. It would be impossible...but it fits..."

"What is it?" Harm asked, his brow wrinkling.

Scully raised her head and focused her gaze on Captain Campbell. "I need to see your tissue slides."

Abandoned warehouse
Bayji, Iraq
1218 Romeo

"What the hell is going on?" a dark haired man shouted in Arabic. He pounded his fist heavily on the makeshift conference table and glared at each person who sat there. Of the five men who were present, three wore the white lab coats identifying them as medical personnel of some sort. The other two men wore military uniforms and possessed the distinctly controlled bearing of their office. "Do we have any information as to the weapon's effectiveness?" He turned away from the table and stalked around the perimeter, lording his bulky figure over the researchers.

The white-coated men glanced among themselves, unsure whether their news would elate or enrage the head of the Iraqi military. One man, Rasheed Ismael, murmured quietly to his counterparts and agreed to act as their spokesman.

"General, if you would allow me?" Upon seeing the other man halt his footsteps and nod his assent, the researcher continued "As I am sure you know, a team of Navy SEALs broke into our research facility. We had been testing the weapon on donkeys and other animals so when I turned the weapon on them, I exposed the soldiers to the agent at the lowest setting. We have learned through our contacts in the U.S. that these men have since died."

The general's face split into as his mouth widened around a deep belly- laugh. "Well, why didn't you just say so? That is perfect; the prime minister will be pleased."

Ismael glanced worriedly at the other two researchers, then allowed his gaze to rest on the military men. "Unfortunately, sir, there has been a complication."

The recent smile on the general's face dipped dangerously close to a scowl and the researcher was quick to continue on with his concerns. "It appears that three of the American scientists who were studying the SEALs were infected and have since died."

"How? How were they infected? I was told the only way one could be impacted by the weapon was to be in its direct line."

"Um, yes sir. That is true, to a certain extent."

"A certain extent?" he asked his bushy eyebrows canting over his eyes. 'Damn scientists; it's never black and white with them. They always have qualifications.'

"We are unsure at this time how he contracted the illness. However, we do know that they were exposed by some method other than the weapon."

"Obviously," the general replied sarcastically, "since no weapon has been taken to the U.S." He returned to his pacing once more, allowing the silence to settle around them. "This is a problem," he muttered. "With researchers dead, the military will be looking into the matter more." He turned back to the three men and pierced each with his cold gaze. "Do you have an antidote?"

The researchers once again consulted on their answer then finally, Ismael replied, "Yes, but it's a working antidote only. We have tested it on a group of donkeys and other large animals using the inhalation chambers we purchased from the Russians. The results have been mixed, though. The weapon attacks individuals differently, therefore, there may be no one cure."

The general pondered the man's answer for a moment, then replied thoughtfully, "In theory, though, it works well enough to be used on humans, correct?"

Ismael nodded, "I suppose so. It is ready to be at least <tested> on humans."

The general's lips once again curved into a smile. This time, however, it was not one of elation, it was more like malicious glee. He turned around, ostensibly to resume his pacing when he suddenly halted, spun around and shot each scientist in the head. The loud cracks of the bullets reverberated noisily off the cavernous walls. The other officer did not flinch when he heard the sound, nor did he do so when he saw the bodies slip down in their chairs, blood gushing from their foreheads and trailing down their faces.

He watched in silence as the general bolstered his firearm and heard him murmur, "Good. Then we have no need for you."

The general walked over to the bodies, admired his aim, then turned back to his subordinant. "Kaleel, get rid of them. The usual way. Dump the bodies in the Tigris and find some faction to blame when they are discovered. It won't be long, so think quickly."

Kaleel nodded solemnly, then rose to do the general's bidding.

Office of Naval Research
Captain Joan Campbell's desk
1457 Romeo

Mulder stood by the window and punched the end button on his cell phone then glanced across the room to the major. She lifted her gaze to his, a question in her eyes. The agent shook his head negatively, "No," he replied. "My contacts haven't had any news about this weapon. However, they specialize in U.S. intelligence; it was a bit of a stretch for them to look at Iraqi."

The major nodded as her gaze was drawn yet again to the gory pictures, which were now strewn across the captain's desk. Harm had left an hour ago to do a little research of his own while the major had remained to aid Mulder in whatever way she could. Until Scully and Campbell emerged with a more definitive answer as to what they were looking at, the others were left to basically twiddle their thumbs. Or, at least, that's what it felt like to Mac.

She watched Mulder pace back and forth behind the desk, then pause, peering at the pictures as if he were trying to jump into the scene, into the mind of the man who had created such a weapon. The silence stretched until it was almost unbearable to the major. She glanced around the room, trying to decide if she should break his concentration. 'No guts, no glory, Marine,' she chastised herself. "So, Mulder, did you know that Scully and Captain Campbell went to med school together?"

Mulder continued to stare intently at the photos, and Mac was sure he hadn't heard her when he replied, "No, I didn't."

Nice, succinct. "Why all the tension, then?"

The agent glanced up from the file and darted his eyes to her, his gaze warning her away from the topic.

Mac found his reaction strange. Was it really that bad? Or did he even know the history behind those two? She remembered his immediate response to Scully and Campbell's tense greeting and the wordless conversation that had taken place between the two agents. The more she considered it, and his response, the more she believed her second observation to be true.

She glanced around the room, her natural impatience urging her to her feet to join Mulder in his walk. As he continued to stare at the pictures, she moved toward the window to admire the clear blue sky. Although it was mid January, the sun radiated, bringing life to the normally barren winter. She closed her eyes and opened her mind, picturing herself in large, green field surrounded by mountains. She took in a calming breath and effectively quelled the restlessness inside her. 'Patience,' she thought, 'it all comes in time.' She reopened her eyes to find Mulder staring at her.

Mac's cheeks tinged a slight rosy color and she found herself somewhat out of breath as if she had just finished running in her dreamland. She smiled slightly and marveled at the understanding she found in his gaze. 'Does he feel as powerless as I?' she asked herself, wondering at their sudden connection. 'Of course he does,' she answered. 'His partner is sealed up with a deadly whatever it is and he can't watch her back. I'd feel the same way if it were Harm.'

Mulder nodded his head, wordlessly agreeing with her silent observation, then returned to the pictures. Mac watched as he pushed and pulled them into some kind of order. After taking a long look at them, he closed his eyes and gently let his fingers drop onto the images. The major stood, transfixed by the look of complete concentration on his face. Her gaze dropped to his fingers as he started to move them across the film, almost as if he were caressing them.

Time seemed to stop; the pair barely breathing, each enraptured by their own thoughts. The room was silent except for the soft humming of the heater. Cramps screamed from legs that ached to move, but Mac's brain held her body still. At length, Mulder opened his eyes and a slow smile crept up his features.

Air rushed back into her lungs as she asked, 'What?'

Mulder blinked and refocused his gaze on her. He had obviously forgotten she was in the room. He nodded slightly, as if his brain continued to process the thoughts, which had so recently come to him. "I know what it is," he murmured.

State Department
Washington, D.C.
1437 Romeo

Harm threaded his way through the busy entrance of the state department in search of the one man he thought could shed more light on this weapon's capabilities. And if he didn't know, the commander knew he would know where to look. The problem was: getting the man to admit his connections.

The lawyer turned the corner of the long hallway and stopped at a wooden door with the nameplate "Special Assistant to the Undersecretary" emblazoned on it. He opened the door without knocking and came face to face with the special assistant himself, Clayton Webb, and a man who was unfamiliar to him.

"Rabb," Webb greeted. "So nice of you to stop by. You know, my mother raised me to knock before I entered a closed door. What did your mother teach you?"

Harm smiled mirthlessly, "My mother told me it isn't polite to lie."

A look of surprise covered the politician's face, "Lie? When have I ever lied to you?"

"Alright," Harm conceded, his voice dropping to a dangerous level, "how about 'omitted the truth.' Does that satisfy your taste for semantics? You <omitted>, to an admiral even, the fact that you know more about this Iraqi weapon than you're letting on."

Webb shrugged, "He's not my CO. Not a problem for me."

"It is for me when I'm trying to investigate a case that I don't have all of the facts for!" Harm cried, his voice raised in outrage.

"Before you go any further, Commander, let me introduce you to my guest."

Harm's eyes darted from the special assistant to a tall, balding man with glasses. The man had an air of authority around him that he wore like a cape. The steel in his gaze told Harm here was not a man to be trifled with.

"Lt. Commander Harmon Rabb, this is Assistant Director Walter Skinner with the FBI.''

The agent offered his hand to the officer who accepted the greeting. "It's nice to meet you," Rabb replied, assessing the man carefully. How was he involved with Webb? Did he know anything about the Iraqi weapon?

The AD's gravelly voice interrupted Harm's wild thoughts. "I understand that Agents Mulder and Scully have been assigned to assist you in your investigation."

A guarded look crossed the officer's features as he glanced over to Webb. The special assistant nodded, "It's OK. He knows all about it. I brought him in for his expertise."

"Really?" Harm asked, his eyebrows lifting, "and you were going to apprise us of this action ... when?"

Webb rolled his eyes slightly and replied, "It doesn't matter. He's here now."

"Commander, I was brought in because I have some private knowledge of the Iraqi weapon." The agent retook his seat as Harm moved to sit on the corner of Webb's large wooden desk. The special assistant turned to a nearby window and gazed out the blinds, his profile to the others.

"What knowledge would this be?" Harm asked, his voice rippling with suspicion. He felt the beginnings of a trap closing in around him.

Skinner paused, glanced to the far wall collecting his thoughts, and then spoke, "I was in the Marines during Viet Nam. My unit was ambushed one night and I was shot and presumably killed. A SEAL team was sent in to evacuate us and I was carried out in a body bag. I somehow ended up in a Saigon hospital, barely alive, but my death certificate had already been signed and notarized." He smiled mirthlessly, "When my CO informed me of my 'death,' he offered me another opportunity."

He paused as he watched the commander's brow furrow with confusion. Skinner nodded once, almost as if to himself, then continued, "He gave me a chance to join an elite team of covert operators who would be sent out on intell missions. I don't know why at the time, but I agreed. After extensive training in covert ops, my team was sent to Iraq to monitor an up-and-
coming politician in the Iraqi government." Seeing the dawning understanding in Harm's eyes, the agent nodded once more.

"Saddam Hussein," Harm murmured.

"He was the Deputy Chairman at the time and one of the power players for the position of Prime Minister," Skinner answered just as softly. He folded his hands and rested his arms on the chair.

"He obviously got the job, so what were your orders?" Harm leaned forward on the desk, one elbow resting on a knee, his gaze trained on the AD.

"We were sent in to watch him. Keep an eye on all of his political contacts. Mostly, our job was to find out about his stance on biological weapons."

"So, what do you know about this one?"

"To tell the truth, not much. That's why Agents Mulder and Scully have been assigned. With their combined investigative skills coupled with Scully's medical expertise, we're..." Skinner darted a cool glance toward Webb, then returned his gaze to Rabb, "hopeful that we'll know what we're looking for. What I do know, however, are the places where Saddam would most likely hide the weapon and how to get to them."

"So...you're planning on...infiltrating Iraq and disposing of it once Campbell and Scully find out how it works?"

Skinner pursed his lips as his eyes narrowed, considering his next words carefully. As he was about to speak, Webb, who had been uncharacteristically silent up until now, turned from the window and answered, "We'll let you know when that time comes."

"Webb!" Rabb warned.

"Commander, I can't release details on a classified mission that hasn't been totally planned yet. Even you have to realize that," the special assistant answered hotly.

Harm took in a quick breath, stifling his angry retort, and forced himself to acknowledge the man's argument. "Alright, but you better keep me informed." He rose to leave, shaking the FBI agent's hand once more and sparing Webb a scathing glare then exited the room.

A few moments after the commander had left, Skinner gazed over at Webb. "He's not going work. He's too much of a hot head."

Webb shook his head. "Rabb will be fine; he's just not into the political game."

"All the same, I'd rather have someone else. Someone who has experience in this type of mission," Skinner's eyes roved over the office and landed on a framed snapshot of the special assistant and another man sitting in Webb's cabinet.

Clay shifted his gaze from the window to the agent as he asked, "Whom did you have in mind?"

Skinner answered, "An old friend." Web tracked the agent's gaze to the picture and focused on the man who posed with him.

Tigris River, Iraq
1506 Romeo

Kaleel stood at the river's bank calmly listening to the smooth ripples. The sounds of the final splash had quieted almost thirty minutes ago, and yet he stayed. In silent vigil for the researchers. He understood the general's reasons, even agreed with them. But that did not mean he would not murmur a prayer to Allah in their memories.

He had killed men before, many times over in fact. Death was nothing new to him. The first lesson on the first day of his enlistment his commanding officer had taught him to distance himself from enemies. They were not men or women. They were opponents, targets. He had allowed his training to suppress his emotions, but it could not overwhelm his commitment to his faith. After each death by his actions or lack thereof, Kaleel had either returned to the place of death or visited the gravesites of his victims and offered up a solemn plea. A plea for mercy on their souls as well as his.

And so he stood now, the first of the mourners for these men. 'Allah, forgive them and me. It was for the greater good. The good of Iraq. In time You will understand; I will understand.'

After another moment of silent contemplation, he turned from the river and retreated to his army truck. He had not been followed on his journey so his next task could be completed easily. The job of moving the weapon once more had fallen on his shoulders. The general believed that the deaths of the American researchers would quickly bring investigators to Iraqi soil. He did not want to risk the possibility of the weapon being found.

Kaleel traveled the twenty miles to the new location at a rapid pace, his senses at high alert. He gazed through the bright yellow of the army truck's headlights, his eyes tracking every movement in the inky black night. Soon he saw the dark outline he had been seeking and slowed the truck's approach.

No fence heralded the boundary of the installation Kaleel noted with satisfaction. 'The less conspicuous the better,' he thought as he pulled along the side of the square building. The officer stepped out of the truck and moved to the back where the weapon was safely stowed, his moves efficient and small. After climbing into the back, he carefully unbuckled the straps, which held it in place and allowed its slight weight to lower onto his thighs. Dropping to his knees, he eased the weapon to the bed of the truck and jumped down. He grasped the trunk of the silver cylinder and felt a slight tug on his sleeve. He pulled away quickly and found the control panel brightened by a green backlight. He read the Arabic words: "Maximum setting. Initializing."

Kaleel's eyes widened with shock. He dropped the weapon to rest against the back of the truck as his hands desperately searched for the abort command. A sudden whine surrounded him and the air crackled with suppressed energy. Kaleel's skin began to crawl as he felt something wash over him. A few seconds later, the whine reduced to a soft humming, then no sound at all. The control panel darkened and the officer once again ran his hands over the outside of the object, searching for the button he must have pressed.

Just as he reached for the control panel a wave of pain overwhelmed him. Spasms racked his body and he dropped, writhing, to the ground. When the pain subsided, Kaleel lay still, drenched by his own sweat. He rolled over on his stomach, intent on rising and continuing with his task when he felt the sting of sand in his eyes. He blinked rapidly, trying to dislodge the offending grains, but the action only increased the irritation. Kaleel raised his hands and scrubbed his face, paying particular attention to his eyes. When he felt the biting pain ease, he noticed how soft the flesh of his face had become. He pressed his fingertips to his cheeks and felt the increased give in his facial muscles. He trailed his fingers back up to his eyes and rubbed them once more. When he pulled his hands away, he opened his eyelids to a suddenly pitch black night. He blinked rapidly, attempting to adjust his vision to the darkness. He raised his hands in front of him.

Kaleel rocked back on his heels in shock. He shook his hands quickly in an effort to force his eyes to focus, but soon found he could see nothing to focus on. He ran his hands again over his face hoping to undo whatever had caused his loss of sight. The burning pain returned, intensified in its strength and his fingers blindly searched for the source. As he traced over his forehead, the pain eased once again; cooled by the light touch. Kaleel dropped his hands once more and his jaw dropped in shock. He felt a sticky substance covering his fingers. He quickly reached up to his face again; his fingers feeling the trails of warm liquid that poured from his eyes. The liquid dripped down onto his lips and he darted his tongue out to swipe it away. The metallic taste and smell of blood filled his senses.

He felt the wave of pain rack his body once more. Losing his balance, he fell face first into the sand and screamed. Blood gushed from his now empty eye sockets and mixed with the cooling sands. As his face continued to melt from the inside out, Kaleel's jumbled thoughts reached for the only thread of sanity left in his brain and clung to it for dear life. 'He didn't understand. He is finally punishing me. Allah, I am sorry. Stop this and I will change. I will leave the army. Please, Allah, please," he begged desperately to no avail.

His face slowly melted into the desert sands, his pleas unheard by all except the wind.

Office of Naval Research
Biosafety Level 4
1523 Romeo

Scully heaved a deep sigh as she rolled her chair back from the microscope table she had worked at for the past three hours. She blinked quickly to refocus her eyes then glanced to the other side of the room to watch as Campbell pulled a tray of test tubes from the metal refrigerator. She placed them on a counter in the middle of the lab and moved to a bank of drawers built into the adjacent wall. Scully picked up two of the test tubes and slipped them gently into the centrifuge. She closed the clear lid and flipped the small switch. A slight whirring filled the room as Scully moved back to the microscope for one more look at the cells.

The officer looked up and caught the agent's gaze. "Find anything?" she asked curiously.

Scully shook her head and dropped her hands into her lap. "No. When will those slides be ready to look at?'

"Should be any minute. The processing time is about up. Maybe they'll give some definitive answer as to what we're looking at."

Scully's brow furrowed in confusion as she asked, "Joan, why didn't you split the DNA strands to begin with?"

The officer shook her head slightly and murmured, "Here it comes. The inimitable Dana Scully to save the world. And if I'm lucky, she might give a little credit to a dumb scope jockey along the way."

Scully closed her eyes. So, it's not over. A truce may have been declared but the war still raged-if only in the heart and mind of Joan Campbell. "Joan," she replied, her voice tinged with exasperation. "Give it up. It was a long time ago."

The captain smiled bitterly, "Not long enough, I assure you." She paused, considering whether or not to continue the conversation. 'I started it, so I might as well finish,' she thought to herself. Aloud, she asked, "Do you even know how inept you made the rest of us look?"

"It wasn't intentional," Scully promised as her gaze was caught by the glare of the fluorescent light reflecting off the fume hood on the opposite side of the room.

"That fact made it even worse." Joan stared at Scully's biohazard suit, her eyes slightly unfocused as if she were remembering. "Do you know how many hours I studied just so that I could beat you in the pathology rotation? The only aspect of medical school that I dearly loved and I couldn't even excel in that."

The agent was ripped from her contemplation of the sunlight by the woman's words. "Joanie, what are you saying?" she asked incredulously. "You graduated second in our class. You missed beating me in that rotation by five-tenths of a point."

"Close, but no cigar," the officer murmured.

Scully pursed her lips and cautioned, "I'm not going to sit here and stroke your ego, but look at what you've done with your life. You've obviously found a career that you enjoy-if not love. The Navy suits you." She sighed softly, "Besides, you're doing what you always wanted: finding new bugs to kill."

Campbell caught the wistful tone that lurked behind Scully's words. "And you aren't?" she asked suddenly seeing another side of her nemesis.

A harsh bark of laughter preceded her response. "It wasn't what I planned, if that's what you mean."

"So what happened to my ivory tower?" Scully searched the captain's face for traces of bitterness but found only irony.

She took a breath, trying to remember exactly what <had> happened. "The FBI recruited me right after graduation. Here I was all set to go to Mayo for residency, and almost as soon as I got off that dais, I had a recruiter talking about being a federal agent." Scully smiled softly, the edges of her mouth rising. "I have to admit, I was intrigued. My father...that was another matter."

"Old man wasn't too keen on the idea, huh?"

"Mm. That's putting it lightly. He wanted his baby to be a doctor in private practice..." her voice trailed off as she wordlessly finished her thought. 'Can't say I blame him. After everything I've seen, sometimes I wish I <had> started my own practice.'

<But then you wouldn't have met Mulder, her conscious chided.>

'Would that have been a bad thing? For either of us?'

The voice replied with one word, so simple and yet filled with subtle meanings: <Yes.>

Sully shook her head slightly then continued with her story. "I don't think he ever understood why I chose the FBI over medicine. In the end though, I think he accepted it."

Campbell smiled, "You know, when Harm told me that you were an agent, I couldn't believe it. In fact, I still really don't. Why Dana? Why the FBI?"

"It was something different. I loved med school and I have to admit that I am better for going, but when I considered my future, something was missing. I wanted to make a difference in people's lives and not just from the standpoint of some sort of demi-god who's able to heal injuries. I like having that knowledge, that ability, but there had to be more. Another way to put it to use."

"And you've found that?"

Scully's brow cocked sardonically, "I thought I had. Now I'm not so sure."

The ding of the timer interrupted the pair's conversation and Campbell moved to the far wall to retrieve the samples from the stasis chamber. She carefully lifted the lid and grasped the slides. Scully met her at the spectrometer the two would use to analyze the tissue cells. The officer caught the agent's eyes over the machine, a wealth of meaning passing between the two. Campbell sighed softly, "Let's do it."

Office of Naval Research
Captain Joan Campbell's desk
1632 Romeo

Mulder strode up the hallway from Campbell's office, ignoring the harsh warning issued by the guard blocking the double doors, which lead to the research labs. Mac trailed behind him, finally catching up just as the lieutenant grasped him by the arm, effectively halting the agent's movements.

"Lieutenant, let us pass," she ordered forcefully, her usual pleasant demeanor replaced by steely resolve.

"I can't, ma'am," he replied, maintaining his hold on Mulder. "I'm under orders. Only authorized personnel are allowed back in the labs."

"Whose orders?" she asked the warning evident in her voice.

"Admiral Halftrack's, ma'am."

'Damn,' Mac thought, 'I can't countermand an admiral.' She glanced at Mulder and shook her head slightly.

He sighed softly and grimaced, 'Of course, this is the military. You can't ignore the orders you don't agree with.' He glanced through the narrow glass windows of the guarded doors and spotted a petite figure in scrubs walking toward him. a cap covered the bright red hair he knew accompanied the ensemble. "Doesn't matter anyway; here comes Scully."

Mac followed his gaze and backed off when she too saw the approaching agent. The door opened behind him and the officer politely stepped out of the way.

"Mulder," Scully began without ceremony. The lines of tension etched in her features forewarned both marine and agent that the news was not good. Glancing at the guard, she gestured for them to follow her to a more private corner of the hallway. "What we found," she uttered softly, "it's amazing, Mulder. These men died from the effects of free radicals. I don't know how, but Saddam found a way to augment the fragmentation rates of atoms with unpaired electrons, resulting in an abnormally high rate of free radical damage."

"But I thought free radicals only caused aging," Mulder offered, his photographic memory faithfully replaying an earlier conversation aboard the USS Arden.

Scully nodded, her thoughts retrieving that same interchange. "New developments in the study of free radicals have led to many new theories from neurodegenerative diseases to lipid oxidation."

Mac shook her head slightly, "Whoa, hold on, I need a translator."

Scully nodded as she reformed her words, "I'm sure you've heard about free radicals; that some scientists attribute aging and cellular breakdown of body systems to them?" Upon seeing the major's nod, she continued, "Free radicals are atoms that have one unpaired electron, which means they are very unstable and can cause damage to the body. The more free radicals, the more damage. Some scientists even argue that Parkinson's disease is exacerbated, if not caused, by free radicals. However," she qualified, "this damage normally happens over a period of years, or decades."

"What causes the free radicals to form?" Mac asked.

"There are a multitude of differing opinions. One research team at Mayo attributes the formation to cellular metabolism. A British group believes it is due to exposure to high temperatures or large doses of radiation or ultraviolet light."

"Scully, follow me for a minute," Mulder urged, his slightly unfocused eyes locked on her right shoulder. "The SEALs stated that a cylindrical tube was aimed at them before they heard a soft humming coming from the direction of the scientists. What if they were exposed to a high level of ultrasonic radiation and that caused the cellular breakdown."

His partner shook her head slightly. "That wouldn't account for the level of destruction Joanie found in the autopsies. Nor the rapid onset of the damage."

"Well, OK, what if those scientists not only found the level at which cellular breakdown begins but also the method of controlling it."

"Mulder, that type of knowledge is years beyond current scientific understanding," Scully replied, her eyes filled with certainty.

"Wait," Mac said, her voice filled with thoughtful contemplation. "During the final days of World War II, after Hitler committed suicide, many of his commanders fled to South America to escape prosecution, including a group of the scientists. The CIA tracked some of them, but most were never found. After the British returned control to the local government, the researchers could have been granted asylum in Iraq in exchange for their research skills."

Mulder nodded excitedly, "Those scientists were responsible for performing very gruesome experiments on the Jews who weren't taken to the concentration camps. Cloning was one of the biggest experiments they were said to have done. Who knows what else they looked into? They could easily have been working on the ultimate biological weapon..."

"One that uses our own bodies against us," Scully finished for him.

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
1524 Romeo

Chegwidden walked out of his office, eyes focused on a case file, and paused at Tiner's desk. The petty officer looked up from his computer and regarded the admiral with curiosity. It wasn't often that Chegwidden personally approached him with his requests. The admiral glanced over to the other officer and opened his mouth as if to speak when something caught in his peripheral vision. His gaze darted to the figure who, although looked distinctly out of place in his suit, possessed the bearing which branded him a military man.

The admiral inhaled sharply, understanding at once why the man was there. Everything was about to go to hell in a handbasket. And damned if Chegwidden wouldn't be asked to go along for the ride.

"Tiner," he ordered brusquely as the other man met his gaze from across the room, "hold all my calls. I don't care if it's the SecNav himself."

The petty officer startled, but not really surprised, by the admiral's change of mood nodded once and glanced quickly to the suited man. 'Whoever he is, it's got to be bad,' the younger officer thought as he watched the admiral walk toward the other man and gesture for him to accompany him outside.

Both men were quiet until they had left the building and walked to a park a few yards away. There, by silent agreement, they sat down on a bench. Only then did the admiral speak. "We were never to have contact again."

The other man nodded slightly and replied, "It's important, A.J."

The officer chewed on his lower lip a moment, his thoughts unwilling to voice what he knew to be the man's reason. His brain conceded its battle with his lips and he murmured, "The weapon."

"Yes," came the terse reply.

Chegwidden gripped the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes before replying, "How much do we know about it, Walter?"

The AD glanced toward a group of children playing nearby and answered, "That's why Mulder and Scully were brought in. By this afternoon, we should know more than we do now."

"You really think she'll find something that three Navy researchers missed?"

An ironic smile edged the agent's features, "I know she will."

Chegwidden nodded, accepting Skinner's belief in his agent. "When will we get the details?"

Walter, realizing his friend wasn't asking about the weapon's make-up, lowered his voice a notch. "Webb's working on them right now."

"Webb!" the admiral spat, his exasperation evident.

Skinner shot him a warning look and cautioned, "We can't do it without CIA approval and support. Our contacts may not be there anymore. This way, we can have relatively reliable information to go on." The AD paused. He hadn't considered the possibility of the admiral not wanting to go. He leaned over and casually rested his elbows on his knees, hands folded between his legs. His gaze caught on a trail of red ants as they marched passed each worker ant carrying bits of food on its back. He moved his foot back just a little to block their way and watched as the leader detoured around the dress shoe. "Given what this is, A.J., we have no choice," he murmured so quietly that the admiral almost missed his words.

"I'm not backing out, Walt," he replied forcefully.

The AD considered the officer's words then remarked, "But you consider Webb's involvement to be hazardous?"

"Friend or no friend, his missions have a tendency to go to hell pretty quickly." A.J. looked carefully into Walter's eyes, driving his point home without bringing voice to his concerns. A flicker of understanding in the agent's gaze told the admiral his words had made an impact.

Skinner nodded and the two murmured together softly spoken words from their missions years ago; words that Mulder had now claimed as his own: "Trust no one."

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, VA
1617 Romeo

Harm strode purposefully through the glass doors, which led to the JAG bullpen his gaze searching. As he approached the admiral's office he tossed a quick, "Is he in there?" to Tiner before he opened the wooden door.

The petty officer's, "Sir, he stepped out for a moment..." was lost on the commander as he looked around the room and returned back to Tiner's desk.

"Where is he? I need to speak with him," Harm asked impatiently.

"He stepped out; the admiral said he would get back soon," Tiner fudged.

"Look, Tiner, this is important! Where is he?" the commander pressed, his southern drawl clipped with urgency.

"I assume, Mr. Rabb, that you're harassment of my aide means that you are looking for me?" a deep voice thundered from behind him.

Harm cleared his throat and turned to address his superior, "Yes, sir. You assume correctly. If I may, sir. I need to speak to you in private."

"Commander, I know what this is about and my advice to you is not to worry about it," the admiral replied as he picked up his mail from the petty officer and proceeded to his office door. "The situation is in good hands," he finished over his shoulder. "Now, check in at ONR and find out how Scully and Mulder are proceeding."

"Aye, aye, sir!" Rabb replied, concern still wavering in his eyes.

Office of Naval Research
Captain Joan Campbell's desk
1639 Romeo

Scully sat in one of the cheap arm chairs facing the desk, head in her hands, profile toward the door. The captain remained in the lab to verify their findings. Mulder and Mac stood in the hallway planning the group's next move. So, she was left alone to digest everything they had discovered thus far.

The agent, still encased in light blue scrubs, heaved a huge sigh. She ran her fingers through her red hair trying to loosen the tight pony tail she kept it in when performing autopsies or in the lab. 'Why?' she asked herself desperately. 'What possesses someone to build something like this?'

<Does evil need a reason?> her conscious asked, echoing a long ago sentiment from her days at the Academy.

She heard the door open and close softly then the light tread of footsteps. She didn't bother to look up; Scully knew it would be Mulder. Neither said a word as he moved behind her chair. He lay his hands easily on her shoulders and quietly shushed her when she stirred against the contact. Slowly, his fingers began to dig their way into the tense muscles of her shoulders and neck.

Scully unconsciously released a low moan of pleasure as Mulder found one particularly sore spot. She let her hands drop, but remained hunched over in the chair. 'I should stop this,' she thought, 'but it feels too good...ahh, Mulder...'

He smiled softly as he felt her last resistance give way to complete acceptance of his hands. 'You don't know how many times I've wanted to do this, Scully,' he thought wistfully. 'After all of those autopsies when you saw so much more than you ever wanted to. And those stakeouts when you always woke up with a stiff neck...'

His fingers brushed her hairline eliciting another quiet moan. After a few more moments, he abandoned her neck and let his fingers drift up into her hair. Gentle circling movements relaxed the tightly bound strands allowing a few tendrils to escape. Under his silent ministrations he felt the tension ebb out of her body leaving relaxation in its wake. She turned her head slightly toward the door urging his fingers to that side. As Mulder followed her unspoken direction, his eyes drifted along her features capturing the look of pure bliss he found on her face. It almost took his breath away.

'When was the last time I saw her this happy?' he mused sadly. 'For that matter, when was the first time? This work doesn't often have a happy ending. Her happiness, well ours, has been made up of stolen moments and most of those in the wake of sadness. Hospital beds and grave yards.'

His hands massaged their way back down to her shoulders as his thoughts continued to drift. 'Oh, Scully, I wish I knew how to make you happy. Besides waking up from a coma, that is. Just once, I'd love to see you smile for no reason. To be able to look into those beautiful blue eyes of yours and find you grinning right back at me.'

Mulder's thumb gently brushed the small scar at the back of her neck and he was reminded, 'We have so much to be grateful for.' He moved her pony tail out of the way and found himself riveted by the tiny white line at the base of her neck. As he stared, his fingers caressed her throat. He remembered all of the pain she went through because of him, of her association with him. His hands stilled at her shoulders as he leaned down and placed a small kiss at the back of her neck, a silent apology for all of their troubles past, an equally silent promise of a better future. The whisper-light feel of his breath caressed her, warmed her. Scully gasped with surprise as heat rippled across her suddenly sensitive nerve endings. His nose traced a soft path from her shoulders to her nape, ending at the edge of her hair. He inhaled softly, breathing in her essence. Reaffirming their connection.

Just as he was about to raise his head, the door opened and Mac walked in the office. She paused mid-stride. Although part of her brain told her to walk back out and leave the pair in private, the major stood transfixed by the sight of the two agents. She had never seen two people in such a perfect state of contentment. Mac knew they had a bond unlike any she had ever witnessed between partners. She even suspected that this connection transcended that of mere friendship to that of lovers. Though the evidence was mounting, she still had no definite proof-

-not even a hushed confession--on which to base her beliefs.

Mulder raised his head slightly and glanced over at her, his eyes gleamed with the brilliant green of barely checked feelings. He squeezed his partner's shoulder once, murmuring softly, "Scully."

The agent stretched slowly allowing herself to rise vertebrae by vertebrae, unwilling to let go of her state of complete relaxation. When she had raised her head, Scully looked toward the door and found the major, indecision and chagrin warring over the officer's features.

"Guess I should learn to knock, huh?" Mac asked an uncertain smile teasing her lips.

Scully sat still realizing any excuse would only cause more comment. She glanced at Mulder in her peripheral vision, judging his response to the major's entrance. What she saw was surprising, but secretly thrilled her. Mulder looked angry. And more than that, possessive.

The silence lengthened, each agent unwilling to put their actions into words and further condemn themselves as lovers in the eyes of the major.

<And why is that?> Mulder's conscious chided. <For all intents and purposes you are. Why not own up to it?>

'Because we've never...well, because we aren't,' Mulder argued. 'And I don't know if Scully...'

<If Scully what? Hasn't thought about it? Doesn't want to? Come on, Mulder. Deal with reality.>

Before he could develop a suitable counter-argument, Scully ended the quiet stalemate. "Did you find out anything from Harm?"

Mac looked from agent to agent and felt the tension dissipate as she formed her response, "I just got off the phone with him. Apparently, there has been a new development. Someone unexpected has taken an interest in the case."

"Who?" Mulder asked, his brow furrowed with suspicion.

"He'd prefer to discuss it in person, if you get my meaning," she hedged.

Mulder glanced at Scully, a question and answer darting between the two so fast that Mac had no hope of catching it. He nodded slightly, and replied, "Then let's go." He moved passed the major and opened the door not waiting for the others to follow.

Scully rose to exit as well, but was stayed by the light touch of the major. The agent looked back, an eyebrow raised in question. She knew what was coming. Being caught twice in slightly compromising positions would cause comment from even the most indifferent observer.

"Listen, Scully..." she prefaced, her eyes holding the agent's. "Whether you are or aren't isn't my concern. But if you aren't," Mac raised an equally inquiring brow, "you have to excuse me for wondering why." Without further comment, the major turned and, hiding a small smile, walked out the door.

State Department
Office of Clayton Webb
1642 Romeo

Sunlight streamed through the blinds warming the oak office furniture. The room's cheeriness, however, could not dispel its occupant's ever-darkening mood. "What do you mean the executive chairman isn't available. Of course he's available!" Webb yelled into the phone. He took a breath to calm his ire, then patiently remarked, "Look, just tell him that Clay Webb needs to speak with him. I assure you, he'll take my call."

The special assistant drummed the fingers of his right hand on the desk as he waited for the receptionist to return with the news he wanted to hear. He glanced at the papers littering his desk and thought, 'I can hear my mother now: "Clayton Reginald Webb! Clean up this mess! A man in your position can't afford to have things just lying around."' He closed his eyes for a moment and allowed himself a small smile at the thought of his mother. No two ways about it, the woman was a saint.

"Mr. Webb?" the receptionist asked brusquely, interrupting his reverie.

"Yes," he replied eagerly.

He could hear her reticence echoing across the wire, "The executive chairman will speak to you. Let me transfer you."

His small smile broke into a full-fledged grin as he thought, 'Never underestimate my influence, madam.'

The man picked up the phone on the second ring. His gruff voice reverberated clearly, "Clay! It's good to hear from you. How's your golf game going?"

Webb chuckled, "Terrible right now; I haven't had a free moment to get out on the links. Now that you mention it. I doubt you have either."

"That's the truth. I wish to hell I had known this was going to blow up like it had," he added caustically, "no pun intended. But, you didn't call me to discuss golf, did you? What's on your mind?"

"Rick, as much as I hate to admit this, I need a favor."

"You? A favor? This is intriguing. Go on."

"I can't go into the details, but I need to get two people assigned as aides for UNSCOM's return trip to Iraq."

"Clay," Richard Butler prefaced, a warning evident in his voice, "that's a mighty big favor. What's going on?"

"Like I said, I can't go into details; the mission is top secret and classified. The only thing I can tell you is that these are two highly trained people. Their actions will not reflect on UNSCOM in any way. I just need a way to get them in without creating a lot of curiosity."

The line was silent for a moment as the executive chairman thought over the details. "They have complete documentation with no gaps?"

"Right down to mother's maiden name. No one will know," Clay added, sensing that his friend's reluctance was weakening. Webb heard the man sigh.

"Alright. Let me talk to some people. I'll see what I can do."

"Thanks, Rick. I owe you." Webb hoped the relief he felt wasn't evident in his voice. This wasn't the only option, but it was the one with the best outcome possibilities.

"And I won't let you forget it either," UNSCOM's executive chairman cautioned before hanging up the phone.

JAG Headquarters Falls Church, Virginia
1732 Romeo

As Mac and the two agents walked into the bullpen, the major's eyes shot to her partner's office door. He looked up and rose from behind his desk, his gaze locking with hers and speaking volumes as to the seriousness of his news. He had just reached her as the admiral barked from his doorway, "You four, I need you in my office ASAP."

The partners exchanged slightly startled glances before following as ordered and entering the JAG's wood paneled office. Chegwidden paced behind his desk as he waited for the foursome to assemble. "What is it?" he asked without preamble, his eyes piercing Scully.

"Sir, as far as we can determine without seeing the weapon itself," the agent explained, "it somehow speeds up the natural damage caused by free radicals found in every person's biological make-
up. Saddam is using either a high-level ultrasonic or ionizing radiation beam."

The admiral absorbed her explanation without comment and asked, "Is there a way to counteract it?"

Scully pursed her lips before replying, "In low level exposures, it's thought that most damage can be offset by antioxidants. But for something this large, the methods being tested are highly experimental." She paused a moment, "But, one does show more promise than others." With a curt nod ordering her to continue, the admiral returned to his pacing, "A group of Russians from the Ukraine have been studying the impact of high carbon dioxide concentrations on free radical oxidation of lipids. I won't go into the details but suffice it to say that if we can get that golden level between suffocation and immersion, we might be able to offset the weapon's effects."

"The Russians," a voice commented from behind the group, "why am I not surprised?"

The group turned to see Clayton Webb enter flanked by none other than Walter Skinner, Assistant Director of the FBI.

Scully and Mulder stared at their superior unable to form words to accompany their shocked expressions. Oblivious to their surprise, the admiral asked, "Why's that?"

"The Russians have been helping the Iraqis create their weapons arsenal for a long time. In fact, UNSCOM just recently found two human-sized Russian "inhalation" chambers in what is thought to be a chemical weapons plant outside of Baghdad. It wouldn't surprise me if they tested this device on their prison population or members of opposite factions."

Mac shuddered at the thought. Though she believed that each man should pay for his crime, using prisoners as test subjects was well over her limit.

Mulder finally found his voice and asked, "Sir, why are you here? Are you involved in this some way?"

Skinner glanced from the admiral to his agent then replied, "I've been brought in to aid in the investigation and retrieval of the weapon."

"You what?" Scully asked, her surprise evident. She darted a look toward Harm, who nodded as if to say, 'That's what I needed to tell you.'

Skinner sighed, "You heard me. Due to my expertise, Mr. Webb has brought me in."

"Expertise?" Mulder asked, his brow furrowed.

"Yes," the AD bit out.

"His job is to go in find the weapon and either destroy it or bring it back for us to research," Webb interjected. "Richard Butler has agreed to allow him to act as an aid to one of the lower level researchers so that he can get into country fairly inconspicuously."

"You're going to hide him in plain sight," Mac remarked nodding her head.

"Exactly," the special undersecretary replied.

"Someone has to go with him," Scully qualified. "There's no way you can do this by yourself, Sir."

"Someone is," Skinner answered, his eyes straying to the front of the room.

Harm raised an eyebrow, speculation filling his voice, "Who?"

"I am," came the reply. The commander turned to Chegwidden with surprise and a bit of envy.

"You, sir! If I may ask, why?" Mac questioned, a trace of concern etching her features.

The admiral looked across his desk toward Skinner and replied quietly, "We've worked together before in situations like this."

Scully stared at Mulder in surprise. 'What the hell is going on here?' her eyes asked.

Her partner replied with a slight shake of his head as if to say, 'Your guess is as good as mine.'

"Well, now that the cat is out of the bag, let's get down to it," Webb said forcefully, his eyes meeting each person's in turn. "You two will leave out tomorrow morning. Butler and an UNSCOM team are attending talks with Iraqi officials about the weapons inspection process. Before we leave tonight," he indicated a manila folder in his hand, "I'll give you your identifications and past histories.

"Scully, Mulder, you two will look into this carbon dioxide thing to see if there is any credence to it. Rabb, you and MacKenzie will continue to investigate the accident. Butler's meeting already has enough attention. We don't want to tip them that something is going on should the Iraqis know what happened with the SEALs and the researchers. Is that clear?"

Each person in the room nodded his head in agreement. Mac glanced over her shoulder at Harm and read the disappointment in his gaze. She smiled lightly at him, her eyes softening with sympathy.

"Alright then, keep your heads low and good luck everyone," Clay advised.

Mulder and Scully glanced at Skinner silently asking if they were dismissed. He nodded and looked intently at each of them. Mulder's hand settled comfortably in the small of his partner's back as he ushered her toward the door. As they passed the AD, Scully touched him lightly on the arm, a show of support and well-
wishes. Skinner glanced down at the small hand and watched as it left as quietly as it had appeared.

Mac and Harm followed their counterparts once the admiral had released them. As soon as the door closed behind them, Scully murmured, "Well that was a surprise."

"To say the least," Mulder answered dryly. He glanced over his shoulder toward the officers and watched as Harm and Mac moved toward his office.

"So what's the game plan?" Scully asked as the two agents followed the officers.

Mac glanced at her partner and replied, "We go with Webb's idea. You can bet any change in our behavior will alert the Iraqis, which is probably why Skinner and the admiral were chosen to go get the weapon."

Mulder nodded, "Makes sense. So we'll split up, but keep in contact."

"Agreed," Harm answered, "you never know what might turn up in one investigation that may be the key to the other."

Scully glanced from her partner to the lawyers, "Alright. Then I need to get back to Joanie and the lab. Mulder, you coming?"

"Wouldn't miss it; I know how hot you look in those scrubs," he leered playfully, including the officers in his grin. Scully merely shot him a look and walked toward the door. He followed her out of the bullpen and the officers were surrounded by silence.

Mac smiled as she watched the retreating backs of the agents. 'I wonder if they even see it?' she mused to herself.

She heard the soft scrape of metal on tile and judged that Harm had moved to the chair behind his desk. Even in his khakis, the darkening office made it difficult to distinguish him from his surroundings. But Mac didn't need to see his face; she could feel his disappointment, had felt it in fact, since the admiral had uttered his acceptance.

Harm wanted to go, and like a small child, felt left out when the older children went off to play by themselves. She smiled softly at the thought, 'Oh, Harm, you are the first person to defend the interests and rights of Americans with no thought of your own personal safety.' Without a doubt, he was the most honorable man she knew. This fact alone made it all the easier to fall for him.

Though she would never admit it to him, Mac was glad that Webb hadn't chosen Harm to go. Her gut instinct told her that she would never have been allowed to go along, and she didn't trust anyone but herself to watch his back. He was far too important to her. It didn't matter that he was a trained officer, able to fend for himself. If they were separated, some small part of her worried until they were reunited. Subconsciously, she liked to think that he felt the same. At least, it seemed that way over the years of their partnership. But for now, he was hurting, a blow to his pride, but a blow nonetheless.

She moved to the doorway and leaned back against the door jamb, her profile to him. "You thought Webb meant you would go," she stated softly, her words barely reaching him across the office.

Harm leaned back in his chair and stared out the window. After a moment, he nodded slightly.

"Hey, just because you don't get to be on the front lines this time doesn't make you any less of a warrior," she soothed. Mac watched him in her peripheral vision as she continued, "The enemy is here just as much as he is in Iraq. The accident in the lab could be any number of things. Someone could have snuck in a smaller version of the weapon-maybe even one of the naval researchers themselves. No matter what, we still have to find out how it happened. America's fate is still on the line. And you are still charged with her safekeeping."

She paused, giving him time to fully absorb her words. Mac closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wooden trim. At length, she heard him murmur, "You should be a lawyer, Mac. With arguments like that, you could win cases."

Her lips spread to a full-fledged grin and seeing the answering smile in his eyes, the JAG attorney replied, "Thanks, I'll have to keep that in mind. But for now, flyboy, how about some dinner?"

He shook his head ruefully, marveling at her ability to influence his emotions. "Alright," he replied rising from his chair, "but if it's Beltway burgers, then <you're> buying." He met her at the door and squeezed her shoulder lightly. Suddenly, Harm felt an overwhelming need to justify his feelings, his reaction. He looked into her eyes hesitantly and whispered, "Mac..."

"Shh," she quieted, "it's okay." With two words she let him off the hook, telling him and yet not that she understood. That she didn't think less of him. In fact, she that thought more of him for having such a reaction. Harm nodded thoughtfully, then with a small smile, gestured for her to precede him out of the office.

JFK Airport
0503 Romeo

The day awoke to fiery slashes of red and gold as the sun rose into its position in the heavens. Chegwidden gazed at the horizon mesmerized by the sight. Soft footfalls heralded the arrival of his temporary partner. Skinner paused near him, his eyes drawn to the spectacle as well.

"Morning," the agent greeted. He wore his traditional FBI garb, including a gray trenchcoat. The chilly night air still lingered in the shadows, reminding him that, although the temperatures lately had been balmy, the US was still firmly within winter's grasp.

"I can't help but wonder if this is an omen," Chegwidden replied after a moment. "Red sky at morning, sailor take warning."

A tight smile flickered over Skinner's face then was gone. "And maybe it's just a sunrise." He turned his eyes from the horizon and looked the admiral over. "How do the civvies feel?"

A.J. glanced down at the blue pinstripe pants and matching blazer, which hung, unbuttoned; his body oblivious to the cool temperature. "Unfamiliar. I'll be glad when we get into the body suits. At least then I'll be able to move without thinking I'm drawing more attention than not."

Walter offered him a wry grin. He could sympathize. After his years in the Marines and later in the special forces detail, it had taken him a while to become accustomed to the dress shirts and ties that the FBI required.

"There you two are!" a deep voice called. Both men turned to see the executive chairman approaching. The press had not gathered yet, so the three men could speak privately without looking conspicuous. "I assume Clay gave you all the details." On seeing the men nod, he continued, "Good. I don't need to remind you that discretion is key. And for that reason, I'd like to have some inkling of an idea as to why an ex-SEAL and a FBI agent were assigned at the last minute." He peered intently at the two men waiting for one or the other to break the silence. After a few minutes, he sighed, "No, I didn't think you'd tell me.

"I'm sure Webb has told you this, but let me reinforce the point. If you screw up and so much as a peep comes out that your inclusion on this detail was for any other reason than serving as aides, the UN will have your hides." He paused again and swore under his breath, "This whole fiasco could start a war..."

"We're aware of the risks," Chegwidden interjected. "And you have our guarantee that no one will know the real reason for our being in Iraq." In his peripheral vision, he saw Skinner nod in agreement.

Butler nodded once, then turned toward the UN's converted C-130 that waited behind him. He halted a moment, then glanced back over his shoulder, "Oh, one last word of advice: try not to look you're in the military and FBI. Those suits may help with the camouflage, but your actions will damn you every time." Without waiting for their reply, he walked away.

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, VA
0619 Romeo

Mac pulled her Jeep into the parking lot and was surprised to see Harm's Corvette sitting in its usual spot. 'My, my,' she thought, 'he's getting an early start.' She walked through the glass doors and entered the bullpen-it's normal caffeine-filled pace still sleepy and bleary-eyed. Glancing around the room, Mac found a couple of custodians emptying the scrapped remains of yesterday. She offered a slight smile to one of the women before heading toward the commander's office.

Sure enough, there he sat, nose buried in a file, stacks of papers and books littering his desk. Mac opened the door and remarked, "Getting an early start, Flyboy?"

Harm looked up at her through red-rimmed eyes. Mac then noticed the many paper coffee cups, which sat at odd intervals around the office. 'A very early start indeed, by the looks of it.' Aloud, she asked, "Harm, have you even been to bed?"

He shook his head once and replied, "I tried, but I couldn't sleep. Something you said kept running through my head."

Curious, the major sat in one of the arm chairs in front of his desk. He laid the folder aside and leaned back, his fingers toying with pen he held. "I've been going over each researcher's personnel file looking for some link to Iraq."

"And?" she questioned, her eyebrows slightly raised.

Harm sighed, "Nothing so far. I talked to Mulder a little while ago. Scully and Campbell have been in the lab all night testing that carbon dioxide theory. During the processing time, apparently they've been trying to recreate the accident. Mulder's been searching the researchers' offices, specifically Markham's since he was the last to die, trying to find anything that might be of use."

The commander carefully studied his partner as she nodded thoughtfully. "You don't look all that perky either, Marine," he observed.

She smiled slightly and nodded. "Yeah, to tell the truth, I was up most of the night prowling around my apartment. I ended up going for a run about three-thirty." She paused as she felt his sudden tension, then quickly soothed, "Relax, Sailor. I was careful. I kept to the lighted areas."

His unease dissipated somewhat, but not completely. Remember, Harm, his conscious, she's a Marine; she can take care of herself.

'I know,' he thought, 'but if anything happened because I wasn't there for her...' He shook his head slightly, trying to ward off the bad feelings. His mouth quirked slightly as his thoughts turned to the present. "So, what grand theory did you hash out last night-or should I say-this morning?"
His question was rewarded with another soft smile as she leaned back and steepled her fingers in front of her. The smile, however, was soon replace by a thoughtful frown. "What about the SEALs?"

A blank stare and a confused, "What about them?" answered her semi-rhetorical question.

"After the stand-off with the Iraqis, could they have brought the weapon back with them? Were the researchers testing the actual mechanism instead of-or in addition to-mere tissue cells?"

Harm's brows lifted as he pondered her idea. That was one scenario he hadn't thought of. He leaned forward and picked up the telephone. Glancing at a nearby scrap of paper, he dialed a waited a moment. "Yeah, it's Harm. Have you found anything that might suggest that the researchers were looking at the actual weapon?" He pushed the speaker phone button and suddenly Mulder's low voice echoed through the room.

"You think the SEALs brought it back with them?"

"That's the working theory at any rate," Harm replied.

"Well, I've checked every office. So far there's nothing about any of this. In fact, it looks almost like someone got here before we did. The desks are just too clean." He paused a moment and the officers could hear the rustling of papers. "I have found one thing of interest. It's a legal pad with a variety of scientific elements broken down."

"Has Scully taken a look at it yet?" Mac asked, leaning forward to help her voice carry to the speaker.

"No," Mulder replied, his voice taking on a tinny quality, "she and Campbell are still holed up in the lab. That guard won't let me back there, so I'm waiting for her to come out."

"Let us know if you find anything out," Harm requested as he leaned forward to punch the speaker button, ending the call.

"Would any of the researchers have purposely destroyed the weapon?" Mac mused quietly.

Harm flipped through a stack of papers in front of him and replied, "Not from what I can tell here. The ones who were infected and died were all career Navy. No money or family problems. By the book men, all of them." He sat forward and rubbed his eyes, trying to work the fatigue out of his system.

Suddenly, Mac sat up straight in her chair. "Harm?" she asked, a mixture of wariness and excitement filling her voice. He lowered his hands and looked up, concerned by her tone. She sat there, eyes unfocused, slowly nodding her head. At length, she murmured, "Maybe. Just maybe." She zeroed her gaze in on her partner and ordered, "Let's get out of here." Mac stood up and quickly pulled Harm to his feet, then led him out the door.

Dupont Circle
Washington, D.C.
0723 Romeo

The major steered her Jeep around the capital careful not to spill the giant styrofoam cup of coffee that sat warming the insides of her thighs. Ignoring her partner's protestations, she had pulled into a drive-thru bakery and ordered not only more coffee but also two giant bear claws dripping with icing. She had silenced Harm with a "protest and die" look when she ordered and then had to practically stuff the first bite down his throat. Now, however, after discovering how truly delicious the warm pastries were, Harm sat happily munching, paying little attention to their destination.

Having polished off his bear claw, Harm glanced over at his partner, the familiar surroundings finally sinking into his consciousness. "Mac..." he dragged out a slight warning in his voice, "where are we going?"

She tossed him an innocent look and replied cryptically, "I just thought we should cultivate some of your connections." She wasn't exactly sure how cultivated this person was, but Mac had a feeling something was brewing between them.

And isn't that because you're keeping your hands to yourself? her subconscious pricked.

'No,' she thought forcefully and glanced over at her still sleepy partner, taking in his softened features and slightly cowlicked hair. "We're partners! What's more, we're in the same chain of command. One of us would have to transfer out if anything were to..."

And you love your job more than him?

'For now,' she argued silently. Mac blinked, 'Now where the hell did that come from?'

In the back of her head, her conscious laughed gleefully.

Shoving those dangerous thoughts aside, Mac maneuvered the Jeep into a turn lane and headed toward the Capitol Building. She took a ticket from the parking attendant and slid into a nearby spot. It appeared that most of the politicians weren't early risers. She hoped, however, that one in particular didn't fit the norm.

Harm grabbed the empty white sack and tossed the remains of their hurried breakfast into a trash canister as she climbed out and locked the Jeep. Glancing back at him, Mac smiled fondly, a trace of playfulness creeping into her eyes.

He looked at her blankly, "What? Do I have my fly undone or something?"

'Oh, don't go there, Mac,' she cautioned herself quickly. 'Don't even THINK about it!' Aloud, she asked, "When was the last time you brushed your hair?"

Harm ran a hand across his head and peered into the Jeep's side mirror. "Well, now that you mention it, must've been sometime yesterday."

Mac chuckled, unlocked his door, and reached into the glove compartment. Bypassing the 9 mm she kept stashed there, her hand was pricked by sharp bristles. She gave him her hairbrush, cautioning, "You'd better not have cooties!"

He grinned back at her and proceeded to primp as best he could in the small mirror. After a final stroke, he glanced at her and asked, "Better?"

Mac, unable to resist such an opportunity, scrutinized him carefully, "Well..." She tilted her head this way and that, trying to get a good look at him. After a moment, she replied, "I guess you'll do. Though I don't understand why so many women swoon over you." She shook her head, resignedly. "It must be the gold wings."

"Funny, Jarhead!" he replied, a gleam in his eye. Tossing the brush back into the glove compartment and locking it, Harm then closed the door and gestured for Mac to precede him.

They entered the building just as a hoard of reporters swarmed the area a little further down the hall. A cacophony of voices each jostling for attention filled the air. The officers could hear snippets of each request, "Congresswoman Latham!" "What is your opinion..." "Do you think..."

Mac turned to Harm, her mouth quirked into an ironic smile, "Well, it looks like we found who I was looking for." They halted just behind the reporters and waited for Bobbi Latham to reach the congressional offices. A few moments later, she appeared, perfectly coifed as always, her lithe figure encased in a flattering Chanel suit. Somehow, the noise level inched a notch higher.

Raising her hand, she requested, "Ladies, Gentlemen, you know I don't answer questions outside of the chamber. When the hearings open, I'll entertain questions for a period of time. Until then, you'll just have to wait for the Armed Forces Committee to convene." Her gaze was caught by the two military uniforms, and she glanced over her shoulder at her aide stating, "Now, if you will excuse me, I'm late for a meeting."

A reporter from ZNN called after her, "Do these officers have anything to do with your investigation?"

Studiously ignoring the question, Bobbi continued to walk toward the attorneys. "Whew! Quite a gauntlet to run," Mac commented.

"Mmm, but I've been through worse," Bobbi replied, her well-modulated tones laced with irony. "What are you two doing here? Do you know how many rumors your presence is going to start?"

"Well, you didn't have to imply we were your next meeting," Harm reminded her as the trio turned and walked down the hall to one of the many conference rooms.

"It was the easiest way to get them off my back. Give them a bone to chew on and waste time with while I find out why you're really here." She gestured for the pair to take a seat at the cherry conference table. The room itself was richly appointed with burgundy and green draperies and dark wooden paneling.

Glancing around the room, Mac murmured, "Our tax dollars at work, huh?"

Bobbi followed the other woman's gaze and replied, "No, it was a gift. From Boeing."

"Ah!" Harm breathed, "Then currying favor."

"Something like that. Now, out with it. What's going on?"

The officers glanced at each other quickly, their eyes weighing alternative situations. After a moment, they seemed to settle on something and Harm spoke, "Bobbi, how much do you know about the accident at the Office of Naval Research?"

The politician's cocoa-colored features clouded momentarily. She rose to pour each a cup of coffee while she prepared her reply. Harm's eyebrows rose with surprise as he looked back to his partner. 'She's stalling,' he thought suddenly. 'Why?' As chairwoman of the Armed Forces Committee, Congresswoman Bobbi Latham was privy to classified military details. She was also a decisive woman who spoke her mind without resorting to the usual double-talk most politicians were fluent in. If she took a moment to gather her thoughts, it meant that she did know something. And whatever that something was, it was big.

The pair waited in silence and politely accepted the steaming cups of java the woman offered them. Returning to her seat, she pursed her lips. "First off," she began with a sigh, "it was an accident."

'Oh, yeah,' Mac thought to herself. 'Very big.'

Bobbi stared into the dark liquid as if it would magically conjure up answers for her to give the officers. "I'm sure you know that the SEALs killed the researchers after the officers were exposed to whatever it is." Her eyes lifted to see the pair nod, then returned to her coffee. "When the proverbial smoke cleared and the SEALs were checking to see if any of the Iraqis were still alive, Commander Knight found the weapon in pieces not far from the bodies. Apparently, it had been hit in the officers' crossfires. He stowed the largest piece, which turned out to be the control panel, into a duffel bag. They left the bodies and got out of there before the Iraqi soldiers in the facility discovered what had happened."

"So they were testing the actual weapon," Mac murmured.

Bobbi nodded briefly, her eyes straying from her coffee cup to the far wall. "They had almost determined how the weapon worked when the accident happened with the tissue cells."

"So all the answers died with them, then," Harm remarked, his voice bitter. "Earlier, we spoke with one of the FBI agents who's been assigned to help investigate. He said the offices have been picked clean. There's no evidence relating to any of this."

Mac touched his arm and reminded, "What about that legal pad he found?"

"What legal pad?" Bobbi asked, her ears perking up.

Harm sighed softly, "Mulder said that he found a legal pad in one of the researcher's desks. The pages are filled with scientific equations."

Bobbi sat forward in her chair. "And?" she asked, her tone bordering on imperious.

"And, nothing," Harm replied gesturing with his hands to emphasize his point. "Scully, his partner who's a forensic pathologist, was still in the lab with Captain Campbell looking into countermeasures against infection."

The politician visibly slumped back into the cushion seat. Whether with relief or resignation, Harm couldn't tell. The room was quiet for a moment, each processing his own thoughts.

Suddenly, Mac broke the silence. "What happened to the control panel of the weapon?" She looked at the others and was met with blank stares.

"You said he didn't find anything?" Bobbi asked quickly.

Harm nodded thoughtfully and turned to his partner, a wealth of meaning passing between the two. "But if it's still on site, I bet I know someone who could."

Office of Naval Research
Captain Joan Campbell's desk
0937 Romeo

The officer and agents sat pouring over the legal pad that Mulder had found earlier that morning. "This is incredible," Scully murmured as she traced a finger over the chemical abbreviations.

Mulder glanced at Campbell, who had been silent ever since they began examining the papers. "You didn't know anything about this?" he asked, his eyes piercing through her.

Joanie shook her head, her face a picture of confusion. "No one said a word of this to me. To be honest, I've been in a daze ever since you mentioned it. How could they possibly have gotten this far without help?"

"I think they did have help," a masculine voice interjected behind the trio. They turned and found Rabb and MacKenzie standing in the doorway. "Or in this case, a cheat sheet."

Scully, who had long removed the rubber band from her hair, tucked a titian lock behind her ear as she asked, "What do you mean?"

The two JAG lawyers shared a glance before Mac replied, "They had part of the weapon. The control panel, in fact."

Campbell's face slacked with surprise. "You're kidding! There was never any mention of that!"

"It makes sense, though," Mulder murmured. "You just said they had to have help. A piece of the puzzle would go a long way to deciphering it."

"So, what happened to the panel?" Scully asked, coming around the desk to perch on one corner.

"That's the problem," Harm sighed. "We don't know. Mulder, you checked everywhere in the offices?"
The agent nodded and was about to reply when Scully interjected, "But something of that nature wouldn't be kept in an office. It would've been stored in some sort of containment field. Remember, they really didn't know what they were dealing with." She paused a moment and looked at Campbell. "Do you have any idea where it might be?"

Joanie stared hard at the desk's surface as if tracking the blueprints of the research facility in her head. At length, she shook her head. "It's not in the BL 4, I know that much. I have no idea where it is. There's no other storage facility here for something on that contagion level. It could be in one of the lower levels, but..."

"What if it's not here at all?" Mulder murmured as he paced along the far wall. All eyes in the room focused on him. "The way those desks were cleaned out, someone could've known the researchers were studying it and took it with them."

"But who would know it was here?" Mac asked, her brow wrinkled in confusion.

"Who's known more about this whole situation than anyone else so far?" Harm asked, consternation filling his voice.

"Bobbi?" Mac shook her head slightly, "Sure she's chair of the House Armed Forces Committee, but what would she have to gain?"

"Congresswoman Latham?" Campbell asked curiously.

"Yeah," Harm murmured, "why?"

"Well, she was here."

"When? Today?" Mulder asked moving to his partner's side.

"No," Campbell corrected. "It was right before I was brought in to look at the data. I remember because some of the younger officers couldn't stop talking about how gorgeous she is."

"Did she sign in and give a reason for the visit?" Mac questioned the captain though her gaze was locked on her partner.

"I'll call up to the front desk. I know we keep the logs," she turned from the group and dialed a few numbers.

"If Joanie's right about this, we just opened up a whole new can of worms," Scully remarked trading a glance with Mulder.

"I knew something was going on when she wasn't forthcoming," Harm bit out. He pounded his fist savagely into the air.

"Hey," Mac soothed as she placed a gentling hand on his forearm. "We don't know for sure yet. Maybe she's not allowed to tell us anything."

Harm choked back a harsh bark of laughter and turned his gaze on the agents. They stood close together, their heads bent toward each other, in quiet conversation. 'Wonder what they're up to?' the commander mused. Mac followed his eyes and saw Mulder murmur something to his partner before placing a supportive hand on her shoulder and squeezing.

Scully nodded at Mulder's admonishment. She did need to get some rest. The combination of no sleep and continuous time in front of the microscope was starting to wear her down. She felt the gentle pressure of his hand and, was it her over-tired imagination, or did Mulder just graze his thumb down the side of her neck? Whether real or imagined, a tingling sensation flitted down her arm. She looked up and found Mulder's darkened eyes boring a hole into her, concern and...something else emanating from them. He swallowed and pulled slightly away as if fighting the urge to... 'To what?' she thought curiously. Then realization dawned: to kiss her, like she had kissed him on the Enterprise. With that sudden insight, the tension between them grew, enfolding them in its warm, hazy grip. Scully blinked once, slowly, giving him silent permission to do as he longed.

"Well, they've got it!" Campbell stated hanging up the phone.

Scully visibly jerked. She'd forgotten they weren't alone. Dropping his hand, Mulder heaved a soft sigh and shook his head ironically. She watched as the dark pools of her partner's eyes slowly changed back to their normal hazel. Disappointment incarnate gazed back at her and she was sure her eyes mirrored his.

Campbell continued, oblivious to the states of the agents. "Apparently, she came here last week. The reason given was an official tour, but the guard here today was on duty then and there was no tour scheduled."

"Did she come with anyone else?" Mac asked quickly, her excitement growing.

The captain shook her head, "No, not according to the guard. But we do have security cameras in the front lobby as well as other places in the building."

Harm and Mac exchanged a quick look before Harm replied, "We're on it."

Scully nodded, then looked over her shoulder toward Campbell and asked, "Back to the lab?"

The captain nodded and grabbed the legal pad off of her desk. Mulder glanced at the officers and stated, "Then I'm going to put my newly acquired skills to good use." He returned his gaze to Scully and, after a long searching look, he turned and followed the JAG attorneys out the door.

Capitol Building
Office of Congresswoman Bobbi Latham
1117 Romeo

"...the hearings should be concluded tomorrow afternoon, if all goes well," Bobbi stated, one elbow propped on her desk, phone in hand, while she toyed with her earring clip. "No, General, it doesn't look like there will be any problems getting them approved." She nodded absently, then replied, "Yes, I'll talk to you tomorrow then. Yes, Sir, you too." Hanging up the phone she clipped the earring back in place and shuffled a stack of papers on her desk.

The phone rang again. She stifled a sigh of resignation, beginning to regret ever giving her secretary the day off. Bobbi picked up the phone and removed the earring again, "Bobbi Latham."

"What did you tell them?" a slightly muffled, though definitely masculine, voice asked. Bobbi shuddered slightly a trickle of fear darting down her spine. Out of all of the dangerous men she had ever dealt with, this one scared her the most. He was a contradiction: boyish good-looks branded him as the boy-next-
door, but his successful kill ratio was well-known in classified circles. Prosthetic arm and all.

She still remembered how his brown eyes had pierced right through her soul when he had approached her. Glancing up at the door, she replied, "Only what I was allowed to tell."

"Good. Did they buy it?"

"Yes, they seemed to. But apparently, they found something you missed," she snapped sharply, more out of fear than anger. "One of the FBI agents found a pad full of formulas. Harm and Mac seemed to think that it could lead to something related to the weapon."

The man muffled a curse.

She ignored him and asked, "Where is the control panel?"

"In a safe place. No one will find it."

The line was quiet for a moment. "What do I tell them if they come back?" she asked with desperate resignation.

"Tell them nothing. Deny everything." And he was gone.

Bobbi replaced the receiver and dropped her head in her hands. 'What the hell have I gotten myself into?'

Undisclosed Location
Washington, D.C.
1126 Romeo

As Mulder approached the seemingly abandoned building, he could feel the hidden cameras focusing in on him. Quietly watching and recording all his actions for posterity, or at least, for the three men in the world more paranoid than he. The agent knocked quickly on the steel door and glanced up. Offering a cheesy smile for the camera while he waited for admittance, Mulder pondered the latest developments. The staticky sound of an intercom buzzed through his thoughts and a garbled voice asked for the secret password.

"Oh, come on, Frohike!" he sighed. "You know it's me."

"No password, no entrée!" the voice argued.

"Fine," Mulder commented. Now he had to figure out what it was. The Lone Gunmen, three men who had dedicated themselves to ferreting out all of the government's secret conspiracies, alternated passwords every month. Sometimes none was required. This, however, didn't appear to be one of those times. Mulder filed through his brain and picked out an old one that was probably in line for reuse. He moved closer to the intercom and glanced over his shoulder, hoping the guys would appreciate his display and let him in anyway if the password wasn't correct. He murmured the words quietly. As it turned out, his acting wasn't necessary. A slight buzz indicated that his answer had been accepted and he turned the door knob and let himself in.

After climbing the flight of stairs and opening another door, Mulder entered the inner sanctum. Langly peeked out from behind a large storage cabinet and called, "Hiya, Mulder! What's up?"

"Where's the beautiful Agent Scully?" asked the diminutive Frohike as he entered from another room.

After tossing the small man a dirty look for the runaround at the door, Mulder answered, "I left her in the lab. Gotta question for you."

"Shoot! We're here and ready to serve," remarked the third member of the group, Byers. Mulder had always wondered about Byers. The man wore a suit and tie every day, as if going to some type of professional position while the others generally sported jeans and t-shirts. But the greatest mystery of all, at least to Mulder, was the simple gold wedding ring the man wore. Outside of one woman, the agent had never heard him mention women, let alone being married, and yet there it was.

Mulder pulled a small photo out of his breast pocket and showed it to the guys. "Wow!" cried Frohike. "She's hot!"

Langly crowded up behind the other man and asked, "Who is she?"

"Congresswoman Bobbi Latham," commented Byers who now peered intently at the picture. "Why do you want to know about her?"

"Blind date?" Frohike asked with a leer. "Does she have a sister? We could double."

"She'd chew you up and spit you out, Frohike," Mulder answered.

Byers nodded in agreement, "She does have a reputation as a bulldog."

"I think she may be involved in the case I've been investigating. What do you know about her?" the agent asked, returning to his original question.

"Chair of the House Armed Forces Committee." Byers paused a moment as he thought. "Comes from a long line of civil servants. Her father was a candidate for Supreme Court Justice, but his politics weren't popular at the time." He pursed his lips, then continued, "She's one of the up-and-coming, but that's about all I know. Hasn't made any political waves yet, though she is very vocal about where she stands."

Mulder nodded then switched thought streams, "Alright. If you were a potentially dangerous weapon and you wanted to be where no one would find you, where would you hide?"

"Barring the obvious?" Langly asked, his shaggy blonde hiding most of his face. "Then it could be anywhere."

"I realize that," Mulder replied. "That's why I came to you in the first place: to narrow down the list."

Frohike settled himself in front of one of the many computer monitors in the room and asked, "What exactly are we looking for?"

Office of Naval Research
Security Room
1131 Romeo

After the accident in the lab, the security detail for the center had been taken over by MPs. The commanding officer, one Lt. J.D. Robinson, was a large black man whose stature belied his persona. He was really a pussy cat at heart. Mac took an instant liking to him when she and Harm approached him.

He sat in front of a bank of TV screens each showing a black and white image of the building, and after saluting his superiors, he answered the major. "Yes, ma'am, I have the tapes for those days right here. But if you want to look through all of them, it's going to take a while."

"Can we narrow it down to a specific period of time and then work from there?" Harm asked leaning over and peering closely at one monitor.

"Yes, sir, but there are twenty-nine cameras stationed all over this building." He paused and leaned over to a cabinet. Reaching in, he located the tapes for the day in question and loaded one into the VCR. The film sprang to life and the lieutenant fast-forwarded it until it reached the appropriate time. "Now, what did you want to look for?"

Mac answered him quickly, fully aware that Harm was still bristling at the apparent betrayal. "Congresswoman Bobbi Latham. Do you remember seeing her here at any time that day?"

"Sure do, ma'am, she's a hard one to forget-if you get my meaning," he replied easily as he made a few adjustments to the screen. Mac smiled slightly and indicated he should continue. "I was up here watching the monitors that day. She went to a couple of offices, looked around, and then talked with some of the staff. That was about it."

"Were you up here the whole time?" Harm asked as the tape slowed to the appropriate time and began to play.

The MP nodded, "And I never took my eyes off of her."

"Maybe that's exactly what they wanted," Mac murmured. Harm glanced quickly at her and she continued her thought, "A distraction. A member of Congress, and a beautiful one at that, paying a visit? It would be the perfect opportunity for someone to sneak in."

Harm nodded slowly. The lawyers watched the video tape in silence before the commander remarked, "Well, it looks like we'll be here a while." Mac pulled two chairs closer to the monitor and they settled in.

Office of Naval Research
Outside BL-4
1448 Romeo

Campbell rose from the small cot that stayed in an adjoining room and stretched slightly. Glancing through window, her gaze was caught by a blue-suited figure hunched over a microscope. She shook her head, amazed by Scully's stamina. In med school, the agent had been referred to as the "Teflon Doc." She took a lick, though not many, and kept coming back for more.

The captain walked over to the intercom on the wall and punched a button. "Dana, how's it going?"

Scully looked over at the window and replied, "The next samples should be ready for testing in four hours. I just finished with the first group."

"Any results?"

"Nothing definite, but I think the next batch will show a little more."

Scully turned back to the microscope and was about to return to her work when Campbell offered, "Dana, why don't you take a break? I can watch the samples and if anything changes I'll be sure to tell you."

The agent glanced up and sighed. She really didn't want to, but Mulder and Joanie were right. She was tired. Her brain was starting to miss small items and she knew that if she continued, bigger mistakes were on the way. 'And we don't have time for that,' she thought wearily. She nodded to Joanie and moved toward the decontamination room.

From her vantage point, the captain sighed thankfully. She wasn't above ordering the agent, or even finding someone whose orders she would follow, but she'd rather have her former classmate's cooperation. It would only help ease the rift Campbell herself had created between the two of them all those years ago.

Joanie moved to the decon chamber and pulled out her own bio-hazard suit to don. As soon as Campbell was dressed, Scully walked out and pulled off her helmet. 'God, she looks exhausted!' Campbell thought, although she carefully masked those feelings. Knowing the agent as she did, any mention of her physical or mental state would send her immediately back into the lab.

Scully stripped down to her scrubs and hung her suit on the far wall. She turned back to the captain before she had entered the decon chamber and reminded, "Any change at all."

Campbell smiled slightly and replied, "Any change at all. Now, go on, get some sleep."

The agent nodded absently and walked over the cot Joanie had so recently occupied. She sat down, tugged off her shoes, and lay on her side, to tired to do anything else. Within moments, she had slipped into the dreamy world of unconsciousness.

Campbell looked out of the window and into the adjoining room. Seeing Scully sleeping, the captain smiled softly and nodded before preparing the checklist for the next batch of samples.

Army Installation
Undisclosed location in Iraq
1632 Romeo

The crunch of sand against shoe sole was the only sound that echoed in the still desert night. A lithe figure in black stole across the sand dunes cautiously. His only light, the eerie green backlight of his GPS. As the figure neared the warehouse, the dim lights surrounding the building began to brighten. He peered for signs of life before moving any closer. After a moment of silent observation, the figure continued, approaching the army truck, which sat to the side of the building.

He quietly circled the vehicle and found the driver face down in the sand. Dropping the dark duffel bag, which had hung loosely over his shoulder, the figure removed the black ski mask that he had worn throughout his trek. Alex Krychek rolled the soldier over and dispassionately regarded yet another casualty of the weapon.

Krychek sighed softly and, leaving the soldier, began his search for the weapon. He examined the back of the truck with care and finally dropped to his knees to check the underside.

"Jackpot!" he breathed. Scooting under the truck, he cautiously gripped the sides of a cylindrical tube and pulled. Knowing this was the only remaining weapon of its kind, he was eager to determine if it was undamaged. Krychek pressed a few buttons and the weapon jolted to life. His hands skimmed over the control panel with a surety of knowledge and found everything in working order. After a few minutes, he shut it down and carefully stowed it into the duffel. He carefully covered any sign of his presence and then faded into the inky desert night.

Baghdad, Iraq
1826 Romeo

The night air danced across the desert, crisp, cool, tangy. As Skinner breathed, he was pulled back into decades past. When he had stepped on this dusty airfield almost twenty years ago, he had prayed that that would be the last time he ever saw this hellhole. And up until today, God had heard and answered that plea. Now, in some ironic twist of fate, Skinner was forced to return. The cause was good and just, but he still couldn't tamp down on the slightly nauseous feeling that bubbled through him.

The UNSCOM group had already made the required landing in Bahrain before continuing on to their present location at the Iraqi airport. Skinner glanced around, sizing up the area and military detail, which had accompanied the requisite politicians as they greeted the party, while trying to maintain the image of a curious bureaucrat.

For his part, Chegwidden trailed closely after his assigned diplomat, toting a box filled with papers and pamphlets. Though irritated by the menial task, Skinner was the only one who was able to see through the mask of subservience his partner wore. As the admiral neared the white Toyota vans that would transport the group to the meeting site, he noticed a flurry of activity a few yards away. A group of soldiers had exited the terminal and were hurriedly searching for someone. He glanced toward Skinner and, drawing on the long unused silent communication their team had developed, indicated the agent should check it out. Skinner had noticed that same activity and nodded his understanding to the admiral.

Chegwidden continued to follow his diplomat and loaded the box into the back of the van as Skinner moved toward the terminal. His nonchalant manner went unnoticed by the government officials and only when he neared the soldiers were his actions called into question.

"Where are you going?" asked a heavily accented Iraqi voice. Skinner turned and found a man dressed in fatigues standing right behind him.

The agent glanced around somewhat embarrassed and replied, "I'm looking for the bathroom. Can you direct me to it?"

The officer smiled sardonically and answered, "In there to your right."

Skinner nodded his thanks and moved toward the door. Unfortunately, the group of soldiers had already left apparently having found the person they sought. He continued on into the building and as the stale air greeted him, he decided that Luck was with him after all. The sound of voices filled the air, their owners' excitement of some event increasing their volume. The agent glanced over his shoulder in an effort to determine if the officer outside followed him and, when he decided he was alone, he quietly continued up the hall.

As he neared the end of the hall, he peeked around the corner. The men were speaking rapidly in Arabic to an Army general. Seeing the group of soldiers, he jumped back and took a small breath. He closed his eyes a moment and dredged up what little knowledge he still possessed of the Arabic language. After a second or two, small phrases trickled into his conscious and were slowly deciphered.


The voices quieted moments before Skinner heard movement coming toward him. Dashing back down the hall, he skidded to a stop in front of the restroom door and quickly entered. He paused just on the other side of the door and listened carefully for sounds that the group had passed. After a few minutes, he opened the door and made a show of rezipping his zipper. He glanced up and down the hall as if trying to reorient himself to the building, then followed the men out to the airstrip.

Chegwidden stood beside one of the vans with a clip board in his hand. He looked up and saw Skinner exiting the building just after the soldiers. The admiral tapped his left wrist, waved to the agent, and pointed to the van, telling him to hurry up. Skinner half-jogged over to the vehicle and whispered to his partner, "Something happened. We need to go."

The admiral nodded once, as if accepting an excuse for Skinner's tardiness and pointed to last van. "Well," Chegwidden began, "everything is accounted for from the plane, but we have to take the last van. It has all of the supplies."

Skinner nodded, understanding exactly what supplies the admiral meant, and walked toward it. Crawling into the passenger's seat he nodded to their driver, another American delegate who had been apprised of their mission, and waited for the admiral to follow. After giving the other vans the OK to proceed, Chegwidden jogged to the van and climbed in. Realizing that the vehicle was probably bugged, he said nothing, but one glance at Skinner told him all he needed to know. They had to lose the escort and fast if they were to start their real mission.

The driver put the van in gear and slowly pulled out behind the others to complete the entourage. Chegwidden and Skinner quickly tugged off their shirts and pants to reveal black body suits. They drove in silence for a few miles before the group entered into a hilly area. The admiral tossed his partner a black duffel bag, which was promptly unzipped to stow the clothes. Skinner pulled out two pairs of black Navy SEALs boots and handed one pair back to Chegwidden. The vehicle slowed almost to a crawl near one of the more concealed areas. After grabbing two more duffels each, the men opened their doors and jumped out. The van slowly increased its speed and rejoined the group as Chegwidden and Skinner disappeared into the early dawn.

Unknown Highway in Iraq
Twenty miles East of the Tigris River
1849 Romeo

"Now, tell me exactly what happened!" the general barked in Arabic.

The soldiers sat quietly in the back of the army truck, their earlier excitement quelled by the fast pace of the vehicle and the sharp orders of the general. The highest ranking officer, Lt. Sadid Abhal, looked at his comrades, then briskly repeated their earlier story.

The group had just arrived at the warehouse for the daily security sweep, when one of them had noticed the location of the army truck. They knew no deliveries were scheduled to be made at that time, so they had decided to check the vehicle before proceeding on to their normal duties.

Upon approach, they noticed that there was no accompanying soldier or driver and after checking their weapons, they neared the vehicle. Appointing two soldiers to inspect the cab, the others began to carefully look over the rest of the truck. It had been one of the group's newest enlistees who had discovered the body.

Abhal continued the story stating that an officer was supposed to make a delivery the previous evening. Abhal had all of the soldiers check the surrounding area carefully for the cargo, but they found nothing.

At the end of the debriefing, the general nodded and asked, "What happened to the soldier?"

The men shuddered while Abhal openly blanched at the memory. "Sir, his face was completely gone. It looked like someone had shot him, but I found no bullet shells in the area."

The general closed his eyes and thought, 'Damn! Someone found the last one.'

Office of Naval Research Security Room
1853 Romeo

"Wait!" Mac cried. "Go back a little bit."

The MP did as requested while Harm shot a questioning glance at his partner. A moment later, he saw the reason for her order. Bobbi Latham stood, as if frozen, at a door to one of the offices. "Can you enhance the door and what's behind it?" Mac asked, leaning forward in her seat.

Robinson replied, "I can try, ma'am, but no guarantees, that area is pretty dark." His hands moved gracefully over various knobs and the frame moved to focus in on the shadowed figure.

"Someone's back there," Harm murmured as the picture began to focus. At length, the definite shape of a man with dark hair formed.

Mac glanced quickly at her partner, her eyes unwilling to leave the image for long. "Do you recognize him?"

Harm shook his head. "Can we get a print-
out of this?"

"It's on its way now," Robinson replied as a whirring sound began to fill the air. He reached across the console and grabbed the paper as it processed out of the printer. The MP handed it to Mac whose eyes roved over the grainy image seeking recognition of the person on some level. Harm peered over her shoulder his own gaze trained on the picture as well.

After a few minutes, he sighed, "Maybe Mulder will know who it is." Mac nodded and after thanking Robinson for his time, the pair left in search of the FBI agent.

Undisclosed Location
Washington, D.C.
1857 Romeo

Mulder fished his cell phone out of his inside front pocket and pressed Memory, 1, Send. The phone faithfully dialed a number the agent himself had memorized long ago. Walking away from The Lone Gunmen's office, Mulder made his way to the car. On the fourth ring, Scully still hadn't answered. He knew he was taking a chance that she wouldn't be in the lab, but it was one he took anyway. After all, she had promised to get some rest sometime today. Mulder hoped she'd listened and done so, though he wasn't holding his breath.

He allowed the phone to ring twice more and was about to disconnect when a muffled, "H'llo" forestalled his action.

"Scully? It's me. Are you OK?" concern filled his voice when he realized she hadn't yet answered him.

'Yeah," she breathed on the end of a yawn. "What's up?"

"Well, it's safe to say that the control panel isn't anywhere in D.C. or this country for that matter." He slid into the driver's seat and started the car engine.

"The Gunmen didn't find anything?" Scully asked, her voice like silk on sandpaper.

Mulder's breath caught at the sound. "No, nothing."

"And that's what bothers you, right?"

"Yeah," he replied, his brow furrowing, "it's too quiet around here, which means all of our favorite people are probably up to something." He pulled out into the traffic and turned right.

"You never know, Mulder," a teasing lilt filtered through the phone, "they could just be on vacation."

"Maybe in Anarctica," he replied wryly then lowered his voice a slight satisfaction creeping into his words. "You did get some sleep, didn't you?"

He could almost feel her nod. "Yeah, matter of fact you just woke me up."

"Old habits are hard to break," he murmured. This time he did feel her lips tilt into the soft smile that mimicked his own. After a moment of contented silence, he asked, "How's the antidote coming?"

"When I last checked, which was..." he could hear her fumbling for her watch. "...a couple of hours ago, we were waiting for the fourth batch of sample cells to be ready to test. Joanie should be looking at them right now and making some preliminary notes."

Mulder nodded and heard the creaking of what had to be bed springs, telling him she had been lying down during the majority of their conversation. "What did you find out about Bobbi Latham?" she asked after she had moved to a sitting position.

"Not much. The boys had no news about any nefarious dealings she may be involved in." He paused a moment and signaled to move into another lane.

When she didn't respond, he prodded, "Scully?" In the background, he could hear voices, but none were distinguishable. He heard her muffle a curse before she returned, "Mulder? Harm and Mac are here. They found something interesting in the tapes. Something I think you need to see."

"I'm on my way," he replied then pressed the end button.

Office of Naval Research
Outside BL-4
1905 Romeo

"So I take it you know him," Mac murmured judging Scully's reaction to the print-

Grainy though the image was, the agent had no trouble identifying the congresswoman's co-conspirator. "Alex Krychek," Scully spat taking the picture from Harm and wandering to the other side of the room. "Should've known he'd have his paws in this somehow."

"Who is he?" Harm asked, his arms folded across his chest.

Scully pursed her lips unsure how much information to release to the officers. At length, she decided that they had a right to full disclosure. "At one time he was the go-to guy for a powerful syndicate which Mulder and I have been investigating for a long time. When the X-Files were closed," she paused a moment quelling the sudden catch that threatened to overcome her voice, "I returned to Quantico to teach and he was assigned to Mulder as a new partner."

She studied the photo for a long moment ignoring the questioning gazes of the major and commander. "Now, I think he works for himself. Double and triple crossing everyone else." Scully lifted her gaze from the photo and stared intently at something behind the two officers. Mac turned her head and found Mulder standing in the doorway. He moved toward his partner and she offered him the print-out without a word. Mulder glanced down at it and muttered, "Rat bastard." He caught his partner's eyes and wordlessly said, 'This changes everything.' She nodded and just as soundlessly replied, 'If he's got the control panel that means he knows where the other weapon may be hidden.'

'And Skinner and Chegwidden are in a helluva lot more danger than they planned on.'

Mac, finally catching on to the pair's silent exchange, glanced at her partner and said, "We've got to warn the admiral."

Confusion furrowed Harm's brow as he looked from agent to agent. Unable to get an answer, he focused his gaze on Mac and found what he was looking for in her eyes. "He's got the control panel," he murmured.

The major nodded and whipped out her JAG-
issued cell phone, which was to be used only in an emergency. "Webb," she bit out tersely. "We've got a problem."

Army Installation Undisclosed location in Iraq
1918 Romeo

Lady luck continued to follow Chegwidden and Skinner. The pair had reached the four-wheelers that had safely been ensconced in a low cove and had caught back up with the Army truck in record time. Their eyes covered by night goggles, they could follow the general and soldiers in full black out without undue worry at being caught. The engines of the four-wheelers were easily covered by the loud diesel of the truck.

Chegwidden tried to peer ahead into the darkness, his eyes searching for their destination. Skinner whispered into the radio headset each man wore. "If our sources are correct, we should almost be there." Without comment, the admiral slowed to a crawl and the AD quickly followed suit. The truck, oblivious to its followers, continued on at a break-
neck speed.

The men secured the four-wheelers in a small grove of trees and continued to trail the truck on foot. Chegwidden pulled his GPS out of a zippered pocket in the leg of his pants and tracked their location. Skinner paused and looked over the other man's shoulder, also gauging the building's distance. The admiral glanced up and nodded. So far, the source was right on target: the installation was just over the hill.

They treaded the remaining sand dune, which separated them from their target, then settled in to watch the show. Soldiers streamed from the back of the truck, and as soon as he got out, the general began barking at the men sending them scurrying in all directions. A.J. didn't need Walter to translate what the Iraqi had said. A military man recognized an order when he heard one, in any language.

The two men watched the soldiers for what seemed like hours though, in reality, both knew it to be only a handful of minutes. Suddenly, a slight humming sounded. Walter patted the sides of his body in search of the source. When his hand landed on a certain pocket and felt the vibration, he looked over at his partner and murmured, "Oh, shit." Chegwidden returned the sentiment when he saw Skinner pull out the satellite phone. When he had briefed the men on their assignment, Webb had cautioned them that it was to be used only in a crisis.

"Skinner," the agent breathed tightly into the phone. "What the hell?" A.J. didn't take his eyes off installation, but he could hear snippets of the conversation through his headset. "Do you have any idea where he might be?" Walter paused, then continued, "But you know he's got it?" The agent nodded his head and grimaced. After a few more terse words, he hung up and stowed the phone back in its protected compartment.

"We've got a problem."

"The weapon is gone," A.J. replied caustically. "But we knew that already."

Walter nodded. "It's the man who's got it that's the concern."

They surveyed the soldiers for a moment before the admiral asked, "What are our orders? How do we locate him?"

"We don't," Skinner answered bitterly. "We wait until Webb finds him, then we move."

"Then let's get to the safehouse." A.J. leaned back on his heels and carefully rose to a squat before half-crawling back down the hill to the four-wheelers. After another look at the installation, Walter followed.

Capitol Building
Congresswoman Bobbi Latham's office
1923 Romeo

While Scully and Campbell continued their search for the carbon dioxide antidote, the officers and Mulder set out on an investigation of their own. They threesome narrowly missed a barrage of reporters as they turned a corner and slipped into the congresswoman's office.

The room was empty and, in comparison to the cacophony outside, strangely subdued. The only sound came from the almost muted TV, which was set on ZNN. "She must still be in the Committee meeting," Mac observed as they quickly cased Latham's office.

Mulder opened the woman's desk drawers while Harm calmly pilfered through her file cabinet. Mac stood watch from her post at the door.

"Anything?" the commander called to the agent.

Mulder shook his head negatively, "You?"

"Nothing. She probably wouldn't keep something on this level here anyway..." Harm trailed off interrupted by Mac's quick warning.

"She's coming!"

Carefully closing all of the drawers, they assumed nonchalant positions. Mac took one of the arm chairs while Harm took the other and Mulder proceeded to lean against the window frame.

The click-click of Bobbi's high heels heralded her impending arrival. She opened the door and stated nonplussed, "You knew I was planning on leaving here early, didn't you?" She walked to her tufted leather chair behind the desk, set her briefcase behind it and sat down. "So, what can I do for you?"

Mac marveled at the woman. It was 1929 and 19 seconds and Bobbi still look as unwrinkled and perfectly coifed as she had this morning. The major pulled herself from her admiration when Harm reminded her of their reason for being there.

"You can start by answering a few questions for us."

Bobbi raised an eyebrow pointedly and asked, "Such as?"

"Such as," Mulder began from the other side of the room, "how well do you know Alex Krychek?"

The congresswoman tried valiantly to hide her shock and fear, but lost the battle. Taking in a calming breath, she stalled, "And may I ask, who are you?"

"Special Agent Fox Mulder, with the FBI. Do you need to see my badge?"

Bobbi shook her head then closed her eyes and leaned back against the chair. "So that is his name. I wondered." She sighed, then reopened her eyes and peered intently at each of her interrogators. "As you already know, I was present when the SEALs were debriefed. I worked late that night and as I was walking to my car in the Capitol parking lot, a man grabbed me and pulled me behind one of the support beams. He held a gun to my head and told me that in exchange for my life, I would have to help him."

"Did you know who he was at the time?" Mac asked from across the desk.

The congresswoman nodded, "I have to admit that I did." She smiled self-
deprecatingly and continued, "When you move in my circles there isn't a lot you don't learn about the darker side of the U.S. I didn't know him personally, but by reputation. Four star generals and NCIS agents among many others marveled at the man's known kill ratio. Or at least, the ratio before he went 'underground.'" She quirked her fingers slightly, placing the last word in figurative quotation marks.

"Underground?" Harm asked, trying to decide if she was telling the whole story this time.

Bobbi nodded, "That's what the spooks call a rogue operative. They don't know whose side he's on now. Only that they want to catch him."

Mulder halted his pacing and asked, "So why didn't you turn him in?"

The woman looked at him askanced. "I wanted to live Agent Mulder. I figured the best way to do that was to go along with his plan."

"Which was?" prompted Harm.

"Which was for me to provide a cover so that he could steal the control panel that had been brought back from Iraq. In addition, he needed me to cover any tracks he may have left behind. As soon as he had the panel in his possession, that was to be the end of our relationship."

"And was it?" Harm asked, his eyes piercing her, sifting through her words, weighing them for truth. As of now, she was passing the test.

Bobbi nodded again, "It was. Until he contacted me this morning right after our meeting."

"What did he want to know?" Mac asked leaning forward in her chair.

"Our topic of conversation. I do have to let you know that I told him about the legal pad."

"Did he know what was on it?" Mulder asked as he cracked a sunflower seed between his back teeth.

"He didn't say."

"Well what did he say?" the agent pressed, turning toward the congresswoman.

"Only that if you returned to tell you nothing. To deny everything."

Mulder nodded resignedly. He had to give Krychek credit; the bastard had learned the language well.

Mac's brow furrowed as she glanced from Mulder to Bobbi. "So what made you change your mind?"
The woman took in a cleansing breath and replied, "I have a duty to the American people to uphold the Constitution. I know that sounds trite in these days, but they elected me for a reason. And I'm not going to stray from their faith."

"Bobbi..." Harm cautioned, knowing that she was omitting something.

She sighed as she met the commander's gaze. "Alright, alright. That and I knew I was in over my head."

Harm's lips quirked as he recognized that this time she was indeed telling the whole truth.

Mulder popped another seed into his mouth and asked from his vantage point at the window, "So, what's he going to do with it?"

"That I don't know. I was the way to get to it. A means to an end."

The agent nodded and murmured, "You're lucky you're not dead."

A chill skittered down the congresswoman's back as she recognized the truth in his words. "I know. The only reason that I've found to support that fact is my celebrity status. There would be too much publicity if I had been killed. There's no way he would get out cleanly. Especially the way he likes to kill."

Mac shuddered with revulsion and judging the meeting to be over, she rose and moved toward the door.

"Bobbi," Harm warned, "if you're lying again..."

"I'm not, too much is at stake." She offered him an ironic smile. " Besides, you're a truth detector, Harm. You'd come after me with both barrels if I tried that again."

The commander nodded and met his partner by the door. Mulder followed a moment later and the trio filed out quietly. Before closing the door, the agent stated, "We'll be in touch if we need anything."

Bobbi nodded. She sank into her chair and closed her eyes, readying her self, her soul, for the death blow that would surely come. Minutes passed and when she slowly realized that she was indeed still breathing, she rose, grabbed her briefcase, and headed home. Eager to hug her cat and talk to her father. To reconnect herself with what was safe, comfortable. Tugging on her trench coat, she turned off the lights and locked the doors all the while sighing at the uselessness of her actions.

Outside the Capitol
1941 Romeo

Mulder's phone chirped just as the investigators were getting into the bureau-issued Taurus.

"Mulder, it's me," Scully began, her voice filled with excitement. "We found it!"

"The antidote?" Hearing his response the officers turned and gazed at him, surprise evident on their faces.

"We tested the last batch on the remaining tissue cells from Captain Markham and the other two researchers. The free radical damage either stopped or reversed itself completely."

While Mulder and Scully continued to talk, Mac's phone rang. "Major? It's Webb. We've tried tracking the weapon to determine its location, but nothing's worked. Apparently, the Iraqis have found a way to hide its signature frequency. Do you or Harm have any ideas?"

She shook her head, and replied, "I don't but Agent Mulder is with us right now, and Agent Scully is on his phone. I'll ask them as well."

"Good the more the merrier," he responded tersely. "Call me when you figure out something."

She pressed end on the phone then looked at her partner. "I think Krychek found the weapon. That was Webb. He says the CIA has tried everything and there's been no response with traditional methods. Any ideas?"

Harm knew that every weapon operated at some trackable frequency. If all conventional methods had failed, then it was as if it simply didn't exist. He gave her a blank look and shook his head. "Mulder? Do you?"

The agent murmured the situation to Scully. Silence reigned at the ONR and in the Taurus for the better part of five minutes while each person analyzed all the options.

"Mulder," Scully began, her tone thoughtful and words methodical. "Free radicals vibrate at a certain speed. Even though the weapon itself doesn't hold them, in theory, the person in possession of it would experience a noticeable increase in his free radical, and for that matter, cellular activity. If Joanie and I can get you the frequency, Webb may be able to track it."

"Would the vibration level be high enough to track? You said yourself that every human being has a certain amount of free radical activity. If there's no way to distinguish between Krychek and any other person, then we're looking for what amounts to a needle in a haystack," he replied, his eyes narrowing at the prospect.

"I did say theoretically this would work. But it's better than what we're doing now."

Mulder inhaled softly. "Find the frequency, Scully. We'll let Webb worry about the practical application of it."

Undisclosed location in Iraq
2001 Romeo

After their arrival, Chegwidden and Skinner had spent the last hour either cleaning their weapons or pacing. Anything to keep their minds and bodies alert while they waited for orders. According to the small, antiquated television, which sat in a corner of the room, their disappearance from the convoy went unnoticed and the talks were proceeding as well as could be expected. That, at least, offered some comfort to the two men whose actions could start a war.

The satellite phone sat on a low table near them. An old rug covered the knotty holes in the wooden floor. On the far wall, a sink with a tiny refrigerator delineated the kitchen area of the house. A cot and small boot completed the sleeping quarters. All in all, Chegwidden had seen worse safehouses in his time. The place was at least well-stocked. If necessary, both men could live comfortably for at least a week without resupply.

Skinner had just finished washing and drying his plate when the ominous buzzing of the sat phone echoed through the room. Chegwidden made a dive for it and punched the send button.

"Tell me you found it, Webb," A.J. barked into the phone. "The longer we sit here twiddling our thumbs, the more likely it is that Krychek is out of the country."

The admiral was quiet for a moment, listening to the special assistant's words. At length, the older man nodded and replied, "Well at least that's something to go on. Call us the minute you find out anything." He ended the call and looked over at Skinner. "They're going to track Krycek's free radical vibration rate."

Skinner smiled wryly and asked, "Scully?"

Chegwidden nodded. "She would've made a helluva squid."

"She's a helluvan agent," the A.D. countered. After a second, he added, "And her partner's not that bad either."

Norfolk, Virginia
2045 Romeo

The SecNav himself stood behind an anxious Clayton Webb as he and the agents and officers watched closely for any change on the monitors in front of them. They had commandeered an SPS-48, code-named 'Big Eye,' to hunt for the weapon's frequency. It had been on a routine surveillance mission when the crew had received orders from the SecNav to divert its course to the Persian Gulf and begin a sweep for a particular frequency.

"Sir?" asked the tinny voice of the radar specialist on board.

"Go ahead," answered the commanding officer.

"Can you be a little more specific about this? We're getting a lot of pings on the radar for this signal; we need some way to narrow it down."

The officer glanced at Scully who pursed her lips slightly. After a moment, she replied, "Tell him to look only at the highest readings. With as much power as it has behind it, his electrons and free radicals won't have a low register."

Mulder, from his position behind her, murmured in her ear, "What if it's turned off? Will there still be a reading?"

Damn. She hadn't thought of that. Her brain turned that idea over looking for loopholes. "Yes," she replied just as softly so as not to garner attention. "At least in theory there should be. Proximity to the catalyst can still cause increased levels of activity."

Mulder nodded slightly, and soothed, "Just checking."

A heavy silence permeated the room broken only by the faint static of the radio and the soft sounds of breathing. Finally, the radar specialist broke through the stillness. "This is Big Eye, I think we've got something. The signal is moving in an easterly direction."

Clay pounced on the officer's words and asked "Where?"

"It looks like he's near the border of Iraq. Getting better confirmation." The young man paused. Tension radiated from every individual in the room, feeding on itself and multiplying. It bounced off the walls and reverberated back until it was almost deafening in its intensity. The specialist finally broke through the static. "He's currently south of Ar Rutbah and looks like he's headed toward Jordan."

"Why Jordan?" Scully murmured. "He has more contacts in Russia."

"You know how he plays the field," Mulder answered his voice equally soft. "Maybe he pissed off one to many Russian officials."

Scully raised an eyebrow thoughtfully, but made no further comment.

The SecNav absorbed the new information, the proclaimed, "Time to call in reinforcements."

"No!" Webb yelled. "The situation between the US and Iraq is precarious already. You send in troops and it will disintegrate into an all-out war! That was the reason for us sending only two men in the first place."

The SecNav looked doubtful and Webb pressed his case, ignoring the shocked faces of officers and agents. "Sir, I have faith in Chegwidden and Skinner. If anyone can find this guy and capture the weapon, they can. You, I'm sure, remember their previous missions together."

"Dammit, Webb. That was with a full team!" the SevNav chastised.

The undersecretary looked unrepentant and glared expectantly at the other man. At length, the SecNav sighed and nodded. "Alright. We'll do it your way. If there is any sign of trouble, we send in help."

Webb nodded, "Agreed." He moved away from the crowd and grabbed his cell phone out of his pocket. Somewhere on the other side of the world, a phone rang.

Undisclosed location in Iraq
2103 Romeo

Skinner pressed the end button on the sat phone and briefed his partner. "They found him. The Big Eye is downloading his position into our GPS. We'll be able to track him using that."

Chegwidden grabbed one of the duffel bags and began stowing their equipment. "So where is he?"

Walter sighed forcefully, "Ar Rutbah."

"What the hell?" A.J. jumped to his feet. "That over two hundred clicks from here. By the time we get there, he'll be long gone."

"Webb found a way to shorten the distance."

"How? Time warp? Walter, pardon me for saying this, but I think you've been spending too much time with Mulder."

Skinner bit back a grimace and replied, "You wear your wings for a reason, don't you?" The A.D. watched as the light of recognition dawned in his partner's eyes.

"Where's the plane?" Chegwidden asked.

"Five clicks away; hidden in a storm shelter," Skinner smiled broadly. The admiral answered with a grin of his own, relishing at the thought of the impending hunt. * * *

The two men worked quickly to ready themselves for flight. Skinner had secured the four-wheelers in a low grove of trees for Webb's men to pick up at a later date, while Chegwidden checked over the aircraft. The special undersecretary had kept his word about making this mission as smooth as possible. He had somehow gotten his hands on a small Iraqi army plane. The admiral was secretly pleased at the opportunity to fly again. He would never admit it allowed, but he envied Rabb. Chegwidden's position as the JAG afforded little time for personal concerns, especially flying.

Skinner returned from the grove and began tossing the duffel bags into the plane. "Everything ready?" he asked watching his partner almost longingly caress the hull of the aircraft.

A.J. nodded, removing his hand. "It's just been a while."

Skinner smiled softly, "We don't really get the luxury of hobbies, do we?"

"That's for sure," the admiral sighed. He nodded to Walter, indicating he should climb inside, then handed the man his helmet.

Chegwidden followed him quickly and within minutes, the pair were en route to Ar Rutbah.

Iraqi Airspace
2146 Romeo

Skinner kept his gaze trained on the GPS in front of him. Now he remembered why he had enlisted in the Marines: limited flight time. He never had figured out what part of flying bothered him. On commercial aircraft, he normally had so much work to do that he could almost forget he was even in the air. The Iraqi plane, however, held no such advantage.

Although his partner was a little rusty at the beginning, his flight skills sharpened quickly and soon they were cutting through the air with ease. They flew low to avoid radar detection, neither man wanting the job of explaining to the Iraqi army just how they had commandeered a plane. Walter checked the GPS again and found the signal was still emanating about twenty miles ahead of their current location. The agent felt a change in the whine of the engines seconds before the admiral notified him of their descent.

"I'm going to land us on an abandoned airstrip about three miles from here. We should be able to catch a ride to Krychek's location," A.J. yelled into the microphone as his hands manipulated the plane's controls.

Skinner nodded and replied, "Webb said a car would be parked near the landing strip."

As promised, the two men found the car behind a somewhat dilapidated shed, key in the ignition. "And you said Webb wasn't trustworthy," Skinner chastised as the engine turned over with ease.

Chegwidden looked at him darkly and replied, "Mission's not over yet."

They drove in silence, A.J. maintaining a vigil over the GPS. As they neared the location of the signal, he murmured, "He hasn't moved in quite a while. Looks like he's waiting for something."

Skinner slowed the car once the building came in sight. It was fairly large and poorly lit. The area itself was surrounded by abandoned cars and rusted out machinery. Night was slowly giving way into dawn as the men left the car in what looked to be the Iraqi version of a junk yard. They each pulled Sig Sauers out of their bags and checked the magazines as well as secured extra clips in the pockets of their pants. After fastening their headsets back on, the two men split up to stake out the building. * * *

Krychek leaned lightly against the side wall of the small room, tension emanating from his body. Waiting had never been his strong suit; even as a child he had been impetuous. Today, his eager nature would have been attributed to the highly touted "Attention Deficit Disorder" diagnosis and Ritalin would have been the prescribed treatment. His remedy, however, had been military schools and strict discipline. Even then a large dose of rebellion still flowed through his veins urging him to break the rules, to live life for himself. Those were the inner emotions that had led him here. Had led him to double cross a high powered syndicate for no reason other than it seemed like a good idea at the time.

He closed his eyes and allowed himself a small moment to analyze his current situation instead of merely reacting to it. Much as he hated them, he was following his orders perfectly. Krychek had been told to find the control panel and the only other weapon and bring them here. He looked around the room. His eyes took in the dinginess and disrepair, but his mind refused to process the details. It was a location, nothing more. A means to an end, just like his informant. What was her name? She was some politico that much he remembered. Out of necessity, Krychek had learned long ago to forget the names and faces of his contacts. It was a survival mechanism. More often than not, they were killed to hide the truth. If one didn't know them, one wouldn't feel for them.

So far, the mission had gone well. In fact, better than expected. After the accident in the lab, he had wondered if the men he worked for would succeed. Any undue attention would completely destroy what little he knew of their plans. Only one question remained: would the double crosser himself be double crossed? Krychek grinned evilly at the thought. He had a surprise for them if that happened. His real hand strayed to the black duffel bag that lay on a nearby table. Slipping his fingers between the zipper, he lightly stroked the cold metal surface.

A slight sound caught his ear. Krychek stilled and listened closely. Was it the scrape of foot on sand? Or merely the hushed dance of wind on the dunes? He shook his head, trying to dispel the notion. Surely it was the latter. He was not scheduled to be picked up for another hour. Unless the unthinkable was actually happening.

His actions lightning quick, Krychek moved from the wall to a crouched position behind the table, his fingers grabbing the weapon from its hiding place. * * *

Chegwidden had taken the front of the building while Skinner search the back. Just as the admiral neared the doorway, his foot had slipped on a few loose grains of sand. Cursing himself, he held still, his senses at high alert for any sign that the man inside had heard him. His breathing slowed until all he could hear was his heart calmly beating the rhythm of life. After another minute, he cautiously moved to the front door.

The admiral tested the door knob to see if it would open easily. It did. He swung the door wide and jumped back, training the Sig on an unseen target. Crouching low, he walked into the room. His night goggles filtered through the inky blackness and translated the dark furniture into a neon green color.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement. A split second later, a low humming filled the air. The hair on the back of his neck rose and he was frozen in place. A voice cut through the noise.

"Here's what you get for double crossing me you bastard!"

Suddenly Chegwidden felt the air crackle around him; his skin tingled as the radiation hit him full force. He knelt down, a vain attempt to elude the beam, and called out to his partner. "Walt, watch out he's got the weapon operational!"

From his position at the back of the building, Skinner swore violently. He charged in the back door, desperate to help his old friend. "Where are you?" he called, eyes searching the green-tinted room.

Krychek's fingers paused on the weapon's control. He knew that voice. Skinner. "Dammit," he swore softly and dropped the weapon. Grabbing the black duffel bag, he launched himself out of a nearby window.

The sound of shattering glass jerked Skinner's head toward the far wall. He could see a lone figure running across the dunes. Walter paused momentarily, torn between his orders to capture Krychek and his duty to A.J. Without another thought, he lowered his sidearm and moved forward carefully. "A.J.! Where are you?" he called.

"In front of you, but be careful, the weapon is on," the admiral's voice had taken on a strangely quiet tone. "Krychek aimed it me shortly after I entered. Apparently, he knew someone was after him."

"OK, I've got the weapon." Skinner read the Arabic commands on the control panel and moved his fingers to a button on the left side. As soon as he pressed it, the panel's backlight winked out and all was quiet. "A.J., how are you feeling? What's going on?"

"I'm OK right now," he replied, removing the night goggles and laying them on the floor. Skinner eased his way over to the officer and helped him stand. "My vision is a little blurry, but that's mainly from the goggles."

The A.D. looked around the room and found a chair on the opposite side. "Come over here and sit down. We've got to get you out of here." After Chegwidden had settled in the chair, Skinner pulled out the sat phone and dialed.

"Webb, get us out of here. Chegwidden's been exposed. No, Krychek's gone, but he did leave the weapon." He paused for moment then yelled, "I don't why! Just get us the hell out of here!" He slammed the phone shut and returned to his partner.

The admiral sat hunched over with his head in his hands. "A.J., you still with me?"

"Yeah," he murmured, "just a little dizzy. How long before extraction?"

"Not long. We've got a chopper coming in from Saudi after us. Shouldn't be much longer than half an hour."

The admiral nodded and somewhere deep inside him, cells began to break apart.

Somewhere in Iraq
2235 Romeo

Krychek stumbled and fell to the sand, exhausted. He'd run non-stop from the building, half-expecting Skinner to follow. He should have realized that the man would check his partner first. Knowing a person did that to you. It created loyalties where none should be. He stifled a bark of laughter and got to his feet. Securing the black duffel, he blended in with the dark. Once more on the run. Once more alone.

Undisclosed location in Iraq
2302 Romeo

Skinner watched Chegwidden closely for any signs of illness. Other than the dizziness, which had since eased, the admiral appeared to be in good health. The agent, however, was taking no chances. The extraction team had landed only a few minutes earlier and was currently conducting a security sweep of the building. The weapon was locked in an aft compartment while the admiral was loaded onto a stretcher and carried out to the bird.

"Anything?" the agent asked one of the soldiers who had just finished his rounds.

"No, sir. No sign of another weapon." The younger man braced his gun against his hip and stood at ease in front of Skinner.

"What about the control panel?" Walter bit out. Seeing the negative shake of the officer's head, the agent muttered bitterly, "Damn! He got away with it."

"Sir!" the pilot called from his position near the chopper. Skinner jogged over to him and waited for him to continue. "Sir, we need to get out of here. Radar has just picked up two bogeys. They're a way's out, but still could be trouble if we don't leave soon. Apparently, we weren't as quiet as we thought."

Skinner looked over the building once more, his eyes narrowed. Hoping for more time, he knew each second wasted in a futile search for Krychek meant postponing A.J.'s treatment. At length, he nodded and boarded the helicopter.

Just off the coast of Virginia
0146 Romeo

Upon hearing about Chegwidden's exposure to the weapon, Campbell and Scully scrambled to assemble a man-sized inhalation chamber so that the admiral could be completely saturated in the carbon dioxide.

Special privileges had been granted by the SecNav to allow the two men passage on a classified super-sonic airplane so that Chegwidden could get immediate attention. The plane was due to land in less than an hour and then a medi-vac helicopter would fly him to the research facility. During the flight back to the states, the two women had kept in direct contact with the soldier who was monitoring the admiral's vital signs. Convulsions had begun to rack his body as they neared the end of the flight.

"Easy, Admiral," the young officer calmed as he wiped the older man's brow with a damp towelette. The spasms had eased for now, but even Skinner recognized that they were coming more often and, from what he could tell, were more painful. He glanced tersely at his watch and then back to Chegwidden.

"A.J.," he prompted softly, "how ya' doing?"

The admiral managed a grimace of a smile before closing his eyes. "I've been better, Walt. But our run-in with Mohammed Makhri was worse."

Skinner chuckled at the memory. He and A.J. had decided that the team needed some R&R after a particularly bad op in Turkey. They had released the men on liberty with the warning that if they're asses weren't back by 0600 the following morning, they'd better not come back at all.

In the end, it had been Skinner and Chegwidden who hadn't returned until well after the designated curfew. "You know," he murmured with a smile, "I'm still not sure just how you got us out of there. After all, I was the one who spoke Arabic and at the time I was practically unconscious."

The admiral's eyes danced, "And to tell the truth, Walt, you probably don't want to know. Suffice it say, if you'd been in the US, you'd have been brought on bigamy charges."

Skinner's eyes widen with shock as he looked down at his friend. "Are you kidding me?"

"Actually," Chegwidden replied with a soft laugh, "yeah. I just wanted to see the look on your face."

The agent shook his head in disbelief. Even after all these years, A.J. could still get him. He smiled fondly at the admiral and squeezed his forearm once.

A hacking series of coughs seethed through Chegwidden suddenly. Skinner pulled him to a sitting position and patted his back, trying to soothe the spasm. After a moment, the admiral stilled and raised his face. What Walter found there chilled him to the core: blood seeped from the edges of the admiral's mouth and dripped down onto the front of his body suit.

Skinner grabbed another towelette from the soldier and, in an effort not to alarm his friend, calmly wiped his face. Chegwidden, however, didn't buy the act. He'd learned the taste of his own blood at an early age. "How much longer?" he asked. The words sounded as if they had been physically pulled from the depths of his abdomen.

The agent's face slackened with resignation, "About ten minutes til we land, then another 15 to get to the ONR."

The admiral nodded wearily then lay back down on the cot. Skinner lifted his slightly damp eyes to the horizon and prayed to a god he wasn't sure he believed in anymore. "Please, Father, save him. He's a good man. He has people who care about him. Please."

And beneath the sound of the plane's engine Skinner could swear he heard an answer.

Office of Naval Research
0435 Romeo

Moments before the chopper landed, the admiral slipped into unconsciousness. The look on Campbell's face as she examined him spoke volumes. Neither she nor Scully would voice any concerns to the two JAG officers who had stood outside the lab. As they had shifted him into the chamber, Scully merely cautioned, "It's too soon to know anything."

Chegwidden now lay on his back in the inhalation chamber; head turned to the side to allow a free airway should his coughing spasms return. He had been stripped down to his briefs to allow for maximum exposure to the carbon dioxide.

Mac gazed at the still form of her boss, her vision slightly blurred. 'What would we do without him?' she thought. She felt another presence come up behind her. The major closed her eyes as Harm's strong hand clasped her shoulder. He squeezed once, then pulled her into his embrace.

"He's going to be OK. I know he is," he soothed, softly stroking her hair. "Scully and Campbell have worked overtime to find a cure for this stuff."

Mac raised her head to look at him, to see if his eyes were sending the same message as his lips. She was surprised to find a lone tear slipping its way down his cheek. She leaned up and hugged him harder. He pressed her head into his shoulder and placed a soft kiss on her temple.

"He'll get through this," Harm assured her. She sniffled once and he squeezed her tightly. "Hey, before you know it, he'll be yelling at us to get our sixes in gear and back into the courtroom." He felt her smile against his shoulder and lightly ran his hands up and down her arms.

Mac looked up and her eyes locked with his. For a moment the room was still, their CO forgotten, they merely stared. Harm brushed his thumb along her cheek, entranced by the combination of soft skin and damp tears. His eyes darkened as he lowered his mouth to hers. The kiss was tangy from their shared tears, but around the edges lurked the promise of sweetness. As his lips continued to gently brush hers, awareness began to flit through Mac. Harm broke the contact a moment later, and dropped a soft butterfly kiss on her hairline. "Everything will be alright, Sarah," he said, his gaze never wavering from hers.

He pulled her back into his arms for a final hug then let her go. Mac's body almost cried at the loss of his warmth, of his touch. But the look in his eyes forced her to rein in her emotions. Harm looked pensive, almost like a child who had found the perfect toy only to be told by his parents that it was too costly.

And indeed it was, Mac recognized with no small amount of regret. For them to pursue this feeling, to even contemplate a relationship, they would also have to deal with the very true reality that one of them would have to leave JAG. Harriet and Bud were one thing. After all, she had already been on loan from another department. But two people who worked together every day in the same chain of command, sometimes on opposing sides...that was completely different.

Mac gave him a watery smile and nodded, understanding tinged with remorse. He answered with a soft smile of his own and squeezed her arm just as Mulder walked in the door.

The agent looked from the pair to the admiral and asked, "Any news yet?"

Harm cleared his throat and turned toward the other man. "No," he replied with a slight shake of his head. The commander gazed back at Chegwidden and murmured, "But Scully said it might take a while."

Mulder nodded and walked back out the door in search of his partner. Mac quickly followed, muttering something about needing to find the ladies' room. Harm watched her go and thought to himself, 'It's better this way. At least for now.'

Captain Joan Campbell's desk
0507 Romeo

Mulder found Scully bent over a print-out with Campbell, their voices hushed but urgent. He moved to her side and peered at the list of numbers. After a moment, he asked, "Find anything?"

Scully looked up, her eyes shining with promise. "Yeah, Mulder," she replied softly, "I think we have. Take a look at this." She moved the computer paper closer to him then continued. "These are the results from the tissue samples from time the admiral was brought in. While these," she traced another column with her finger, "are the results from samples taken just under an hour ago."

"The numbers are lower," he murmured, feeling foolish for stating the obvious.

His partner nodded and Campbell interjected, "His free radical rates are decreasing. It's too soon to declare victory, but I think he's well on the way to a good recovery."

Mulder smiled softly, his eyes warming as they moved from the captain to the agent. "Congratulations, that's great news!" Scully felt an answering smile bubble up and break through.

Campbell glanced at the two agents and, sensing that they had unfinished business between them, quietly excused herself to share the good news with Rabb and MacKenzie.

When the captain had left, Mulder reached down and tangled his fingers with Scully's. He rubbed his thumbs lightly over hers and grinned, a playful light dancing in his eyes. "There's only one problem with this whole thing."

Scully, recognizing his look, asked guardedly, "What's that?"

He raised their hands a little and them let them drop. "We can't gloat to Kersch."

Smiling, she shook her head and thought, 'Only Mulder.'

And that's why you love him, admonished her conscious.

'One reason among many,' she thought as she squeezed his fingers lightly.

Office of Naval Research
Conference Room
0900 Romeo

Earlier that morning the SecNav had apprised all the members of the investigative team that a formal debriefing session would be held to update everyone on the mission's status. Mac and Harm had left soon after the SecNav's announcement and went home to grab quick showers and change. Mulder also left and returned with a change of clothes for Scully, who, along with Campbell, made use of the ONR's showers.

Some thoughtful assistant had placed a tray of bagels and other assorted breakfast items on a side table. The SecNav sat at the head of the long oak table, a mug of coffee and a file placed in front of him. He waited patiently for the officers and agents to get some food and settle into the chairs. He looked at each person in turn before speaking.

"First of all," he began, his voice clear and strong, "I want to thank everyone for their dedication to this matter. It truly was a team effort and nothing would have been accomplished without your combined skills..." He trailed off, his gaze locked on the door.

"Hope we're not interrupting," Webb interjected. The men and women at the table turned upon hearing the word 'we.'

Skinner flanked the special undersecretary and both lightly gripped a handlebar of a wheelchair. Chegwidden sat, clothed in a Navy sweat suit, a slight smile edging his mouth. He had hoped his presence would be a surprise to his subordinates.

"Sir?" Harm and Mac chorused, the former rising from his seat as if to aid the admiral.
"Admiral," Campbell chastised as she moved toward him. "You know you shouldn't be out of bed." She bent and lightly gripped his wrist, checking his pulse. "We don't know if you have fully recovered from your exposure."

Chegwidden waved her hand away and allowed Webb to push him into the room. "I've never missed a debriefing when I was a SEAL and I'm not going to start now."

The SecNav gestured for the new arrivals to take a seat and then asked, "Webb, what's the status of the mission?"

The special undersecretary nodded. "Krychek apparently escaped with the control panel. But that by itself won't make a new version of the weapon. So on that point, we're pretty well covered. According to intell reports, the bodies of three high level Iraqi scientists were found floating in the Tigris River. In each case, the cause of death was a bullet to the brain. At this time, it's believed that an extremist group is responsible. I think, however, that someone in the government is covering his tracks.

"As far as the weapon is concerned, it's in good shape. Currently, I'm having the guys at Langley go over it," he paused then continued, "but they're going to need some help. I was wondering if Captain Campbell, given her background with the weapon, would be interested in joining the research team."

Joanie's eyes lit up at the prospect. She turned expectantly toward the SecNav and replied, "I would be happy to assist in any way, if you could get me temporarily reassigned."

The SecNav smiled and said, "I don't foresee that to be a problem. Agent Scully, would you consider reassignment to help the CIA with the research?"

Scully looked shocked by the offer and glanced at her partner. For his part, Mulder felt his heart drop and land somewhere near his stomach. He didn't know what he would do if she left, but it was Scully's decision. If she wanted to go, then he would wish her well. Mulder tamped down on his fears and offered her a small smile of encouragement. But, much to his surprise, the action was unnecessary.

She demurred, "I am honored by the opportunity, but I'm sorry, Sir. My current assignment is with the X-Files. Captain Campbell is a much better choice for the team. She not only has worked longer with the weapon, but is also more qualified for this work. I'll make sure I'm available to offer any aid, but I believe I have a larger duty to the FBI and my partner." She looked away from the SecNav and read the relief in Mulder's eyes.

'Did you really think I'd leave?' she asked silently.

'You're passing up a great opportunity,' his eyes reminded.

Her gaze turned thoughtful and answered, 'No, I don't think so.'

A tiny light flickered in Mulder's eyes; he was pleased beyond measure at her refusal of the job.

The SecNav cleared his throat to interrupt the pair's silent conversation. Harm and Mac shared a quick glance of amusement at the agents' inattention. "Unfortunately," the SecNav began after he was certain he had regained their focus, "due to the highly classified nature of the mission, few will be able to read about your achievement."

"I guess that means publishing the results the carbon dioxide treatment is out then?" Campbell asked with a wry grin.

The SecNav nodded, "The private sector is just going to have to figure that one out on its own. However, letters and certificates of high commendation will be placed in your personnel files." He paused and looked at each of them individually. "As you are all aware, the Navy much like other places uses its own jargon to describe the actions of its members. Based on your collective achievement, I am honored to bid each of you, A.J., you, Skinner, and Webb included, on behalf of the US Navy and the American public, Bravo Zulu."

"What does that mean?" Webb asked curiously.

Chegwidden smiled from the wheelchair and answered, "'Well done.' It means well done."


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