: MoonShine
Author: Janis
Written: September 2000
Spoilers: Several references to Detour that you won't get if you haven't seen it.
Disclaimer: Not mine, so what.
Category: X,MSR
Rating: PG (sorry it's hard to write smut in the woods - so uncomfortable).
Archive: Please ask first and keep addy and info intact.
Feedback: OK, feedback is more than greatly appreciated-it gives me the will to go on... is faithfully answered... decorates my walls...makes me do the happy dance...just how desperate DO I sound?! Anyway, respond please at JEhrat2@aol.com

Summary: A walk in the woods is never just a walk in the woods for these two.

Notes: This has been on the hard drive awhile, thought I'd take it out for a spin. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed (?) sweating over it.

Hollow Log, West Virginia
Early Afternoon

They had been running for more than an hour now. The deep underbrush pulled and tugged at their clothing every step of the way. There was no path; they were forging their own way, ducking branches left and right. Their breath was ragged, sweat ran down their faces and soaked their light-weight outerwear. They had not planned on hiking today and weren't properly dressed. Having left her jacket behind at the cabin, Scully had on only jeans and a white tank top. Mulder was in his usual black tee shirt and jeans he reserved for days away from the office. Neither of them had the correct footwear, and their heels were developing blisters.

However, they were wearing something now that they hadn't put on this morning: handcuffs.

"How much further do you think?" Scully asked her partner. She ducked just in time to avoid being hit by a branch Mulder had pushed out of his way. "Watch it!" she said testily. Being behind him prevented her from planning her moves ahead. She not only had to navigate the rough terrain with limited foresight, she had to watch out for Mulder's zigzags and flopping branches as well. Her wrist was raw and bleeding where the handcuff was snugly encircled. At this point, Scully was feeling put out.

"How the hell should I know?" Mulder responded. "I don't even know where we are, much less where we're going!" he shot back. He paused to look back at her. They both stopped to catch their breath.

Scully looked backward from whence they'd come. "Do you think they are following us? Maybe they don't know we are gone yet," she added hopefully.

"Who knows?" Mulder replied. "I just know I don't want to be caught by them again. A little too much inbreeding for me." He reflected back on the morning's events.

Hollow Log
Earlier This Morning

They had arrived in Winchester, at the base of the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia to check out the report of a missing FBI agent. The fact that the area was also the location of many UFO sightings only made the assignment more interesting in Mulder's eyes. They'd located a desk clerk that remembered the missing agent and then had gotten directions from the sheriff to the last known destination of the missing agent.

Then they had driven as far as they could on what was considered a road in this backwoods mountain area.

They had been assured the contact they were seeking, a Mr. Lackey, lived only a half mile off the beaten track, and they could easily walk. No, they couldn't call ahead because Mr. Lackey hadn't bothered to have his home brought up to this century; no phone, no running water, and no electricity. It was also plainly stated that Mr. Lackey and the people living in this area did not appreciate outsiders snooping around their land. This community of Hollow Log was extremely isolated from the 20th century. The cable man certainly hadn't worked his way back in here, much less the city sewer system, garbage removal trucks, or gas company.

After driving for forty five minutes Scully and Mulder had finally pulled up short as the road, such as it was, simply stopped.

"Well, I guess we hoof it from here," Mulder had said and stepped out of the jeep.

It had rained the night before and the patch of road was muddy. Scully tentatively stuck her foot out of her side of the jeep, stretching to reach over a huge puddle. She was beginning to wish she had on her hiking boots when she looked at the thick underbrush and wet foliage around her.

"Which way did the sheriff say to go?" She asked.

"Oh, he gave some great directions like: at the end of the road, go left of the dogwood tree 50 yards or so, and then downhill, past the creek, and around the big rock at the bottom to the right. And then he added something like, 'You can't miss it', which means," Mulder paused for effect, "we will never find it." His voice trailed off as he surveyed the surroundings. There were three dogwood trees in the immediate vicinity.

Scully was glancing around, too. "I think I heard him mention something about pink dogwood, which would mean this tree here." She pointed in a generally northern direction. Mulder shrugged his shoulders. It was OK with him. Scully had disappeared into the brush already, and he trudged after her. He was glad he had dressed down for the occasion. The sheriff had said they would probably be shot at if they went in wearing suits or any official looking uniforms.

It was said moonshiners were still active in the area, and had never left the 1920's behind. They treated each stranger as a potentially hostile informer. The Hollow Log community put absolutely no trust in the government and pretty much followed their own laws and reason. There were no schools in this area, and no evidence of any kind of community life. While the families in the Hollow's community itself were extremely close-knit, they remained separated from the city-people of Winchester.

Eventually, Mulder and Scully came to a stream, but no large rock. There was no discernible trails or footpaths. Looking behind them, it was hard to see even from where they had come. The dense trees and bushes had closed up ranks behind them, leaving little trace of a trail to follow back.

"I'm beginning to wish I had brought a compass," Mulder said looking around. "We could wander around here for days and never see a soul or a path."

Scully paused to taste the water. It was cool and crystal clear. "Umm, I wish we had fresh water like this back home." She stood up and wiped her forehead. It was beginning to get hot. The sun was shinning brightly and it was only10:00 in the morning. "What was that missing agent, uh," Scully searched her memory, "Creighton, doing up here again?" She had not had time to read the file. As usual Mulder had simply greeted her at work with a 'Hello, pack your bags, we are leaving in 30 minutes for West Virginia for a couple of days to find a missing agent'.

"Agent Frank Creighton wasn't on assignment," Mulder filled in. "He was on vacation. Someone told him of the pristine beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. How it would make a great camping adventure. Apparently, being an outdoor enthusiast with a week off, he decided to check it out. He only mentioned the approximate area where he was going to a colleague. He didn't show up for work the next Monday. The FBI began systematically searching for him. Some people in Winchester remembered him because he mentioned he worked for the FBI. They had sold him some camping gear in town and gave him directions out here. However, according to the report, the store clerk said she emphatically told him to stay clear of this area because of the hostility of the people living here, and the strange goings on over the last 10-15 years."

"Goings-on?" Scully interrupted him, eyebrows raised. She had a feeling she now knew why they were here. "And what kind of 'goings-on' would we be talking about? These 'goings-on' wouldn't somehow be related to aliens and space ships would they?"

Mulder didn't answer. Pointing behind her he said, "That looks like a fairly big rock, let's try over there", and walked off in that direction. Scully dutifully followed, shaking her head from side to side. As they rounded the rock, a shot rang out. Rock chips sprang up to greet Mulder's face, stinging his cheek. They both instinctively ducked behind the boulder. Mulder's hand sprang to his hip for his gun in a practiced, fluid movement as he dropped. Cursing silently, he remembered leaving his weapon in the car. The sheriff's warning about no guns or uniforms had sunk home with him. After all, he had seen *Deliverance*, too.

"Scully, did you bring your gun?"

"No," she whispered back tersely, "you told me not to!"

"Since when do you do as I tell you!" he shot back.

Scully ignored him. "Can you see who is shooting at us?"

"No, but I saw a muzzle flash about 30 yards to the right." As if to confirm his statement, two more shots rang out. The shots whizzed over the agents heads and buried themselves deep in the tree behind them.

A voice shouted, "Come on out! Put your hands up!"

Scully looked at Mulder, the unspoken question evident in her eyes, "How do you want to play this?"

Mulder replied aloud, "Let's just do what he says for now." His unspoken reply was just as plainly understood, "If I think of something, just play along." Mulder stood up slowly, raising his hands above his head. "Don't shoot!" he said meekly. Scully looked uncertainly at him. She didn't like giving up like this. She didn't like not having her weapon, either. Mulder gestured with his head for her to get up.

A different voice yelled now, "Come on you, we see ya, come on up with your friend!" Scully slowly rose to a standing position beside Mulder, arms upraised. Their captors moved out from behind the pine trees that were shielding them.

"Well, well, well," the first one drawled. A young boy, teenager probably, Mulder thought; easy enough to take if he got close. Mulder's whole body was tensed for action. The second figure moved closer now, too. Mulder couldn't tell this one's age. A large, beat-up, floppy hat covered the face. Mulder concentrated on the first figure, trying to discern his intentions and abilities from the way he moved.

The boy was sure footed, and agile. He hopped over rocks with ease, his gaze never lowering from Scully and Mulder's faces, his rifle never dropping below his shoulder. This was someone who was confident and familiar with his surroundings. His handling of the rifle told of experience in spite of his age. Well, that's something, Mulder thought, at least I won't get shot by some young kid who's scared of what's happening!

The second figure moved slower, and stayed further behind. Almost like a back up person, Mulder thought, working as a second line of defense should something happen up close.

Mulder looked at Scully. She was studying the couple as well, mentally alert for any move Mulder might decide to make.

"What seems to be the trouble?" Mulder asked as off-handedly as he could. "Did we do something wrong? We were just out for a walk and looking for Mr. Lackey, actually. We understand his cabin is around here somewhere. Do you know where he lives?"

Mulder began lowering his hands as he spoke.

"Nobody told you to put your hands down," the boy spoke harshly, defiantly, giving the impression that he was in command. Mulder's hands shot back up.

"Look, we don't want any trouble," Mulder began again.

"Shut up," the boy drawled. He was much closer now, but wise enough to stay more than an arm's length away.

Mulder could see blue eyes underneath his shaggy hair style. If you could call it a hair style. It was a dark shade of brown, straight and stringy, and touched his shoulders in the back, while in the front it partially covered his eyes. The boy was not attractive up close. His nose looked crooked, as if it'd been broken, his upper lip curled back some, more like a hare-lip, and his teeth had obviously never been seen by a dentist. Mulder was sure the words 'oral hygiene' were a foreign concept to him. The boy had a weak chin, and up close, Mulder noticed he hunched a bit, with his neck sinking down into his shoulders.

"What are you doing out here?" he spat out the words. "This is private property."

Mulder looked at Scully then back at the boy. "I told you. We are looking for Mr. Lackey."

The boy stared hard at Scully. "And what would you be wanting with Mr. Lackey?" he asked.

Mulder tried smiling. He wanted to appear as friendly as possible. "A friend of ours was here a week or so ago. Said he met Mr. Lackey and he sold him some genuine moonshine." He shrugged his shoulders. "We just wanted to see if we could buy some, too. It was the best stuff we every tasted. We thought we'd drive out here and see if we could find him."

Their captor looked over to Scully. He pointed his gun at her. "This your wife?"

"No," Scully smiled. "We're just friends, that's all. We mean no harm. If you don't want us here, we'll just go back to the jeep." She turned around to start back toward the creek.

"Hold it!" A shot hit the dirt inches from her feet for emphasis. "I didn't say you could go anywhere."

At that moment the second figure began to move closer, seemingly wanting to assess the situation from a shorter distance. This figure moved just as surely toward them as the first had. As the figure drew closer, Scully and Mulder were able to see it was a female. The boy saw them staring over his shoulder and surmised the second figure was coming closer.

"It's O.K., Sis. I can handle it."

She called back, "I'm sure you can, Luke, but I'm getting hot just standing here. Let's either shoot them now and get it over with, or let them go on their way." Scully's eyes widened a little bit at this announcement.

"Whoa, whoa!" Mulder called out. "There's no cause to shoot us! We'll just leave, we mean no harm," he repeated for emphasis.

The girl eyed them from under her hat. Mulder knew she was sizing them up, he just didn't know what her assessment would be. Finally she spoke, "Let's take 'em to Pa and see what he says. I think they are gover'ment people sent to spy on us. Nobody ever come out here for nothin'. I don't care what story you got, Mister." And with that said, she pointed her gun to the right of Mulder and Scully, obviously gesturing for them to proceed in that direction.

There was nothing for Mulder and Scully to do but obey.

Some time later, Mulder calculated about thirty-five minutes of quick walking, they followed the boy into a clearing that supported a rather small looking cabin, a surprisingly well-built chicken coop filled with clucking hens and a strutting cock, and several piles of stacked wood covered with a canvas tarp. Mulder and Scully stopped in their tracks to stare at their surroundings.

"Keep movin'. No one told you to stop and gawk," the girl snarled. With an unexpected shove from behind, they finished the distance to the cabin, and crossed the threshold into the weather-beaten cabin. Inside it was definitely cooler, and very dim. The only light that intruded into the cabin came from the open door behind them. Scully squinted, trying to adjust her eyes to survey their new surroundings. It looked like what anyone would imagine from the latest movie set of the Depression. Apparently, these people had not heard the news that it was over.

She noticed immediately that there was a back door. She slowed her gaze around the room to take in the lay of the cabin. There was a rough hewn table in the center of the room. It was accompanied by three chairs that looked solid, and hand crafted. The legs were not all entirely the same thickness, and the back of one chair was out of proportion to the cane seat. It appeared the kitchen area was to the left. At least Scully could make out a pump handle and sink. On the opposite wall from the kitchen were two cots. Their beds, Scully supposed. One was larger than the other, and for a fleeting moment she wondered what the sleeping arrangements were.

Then she noticed the fireplace, particularly that it was overly large for the size of the room. For the hard winters here, she imagined. But what had drawn her eye to the fireplace was the deep mantle that had been nailed over the opening, somewhat at a slant. Specifically, a glint from the mantle had caught Scully's eye as she'd turned her head this way and that observing her surrounding.

She looked sideways at Mulder to see if he, too, had noticed it: light was bouncing off an official FBI badge, open and still encased in it's leather holder. Lying in a heap next to the badge, seemingly being displayed as a trophy, Scully could also see a set of handcuffs, and a standard issue FBI Glock. Surely these were the personal effects of Agent Creighton, the very man they were seeking. Seeing them on the mantle pretty much made Scully draw the natural conclusion that he was dead. He surely wouldn't have been voluntarily separated from these items.

Mulder gave a small nod of his head indicating they had not escaped his attention. There was no doubt now; these people were dangerous, and extreme measures might be needed for them to escape with their lives.

The boy followed Scully's brief gaze to the mantle piece and a wide grin broke out, "I see you've noticed the,"

"Shut up, Luke," his sister cut in quickly. She reached for the handcuffs as she spoke. Placing one cuff on Scully and closing the other around Mulder's wrist as tightly as possible, she added, "I'm gonna go get Pa. Keep an eye on them. And don't," she emphasized her words, "get near them. I don't trust them." She turned on her worn down boot heel and exited out the backdoor through the kitchen area.

Wisely Mulder and Scully said nothing, feigning compliance for the boy's benefit. They knew for him to feel secure he needed to feel he was in control of the situation.

Luke gestured to the bed closest to them. "Sit."

Mulder and Scully both looked behind them to stare at the faded brown blanket that covered what appeared to be a mattress. No sheets were visible. It was not the cleanest looking thing they'd ever seen and they were reluctant to obey. Scully had taken her light-weight jacket off during the walk to the cabin. Preparing to obey Luke, she spread it on top of the thread-bare blanket. Mulder found himself wishing he had something to place between himself and the fabric.

"SIT!" Luke almost shouted. Raising his eyebrows in surrender, Mulder complied.

Luke could see them sweating. He wasn't sure if they were scared or just hot from the long walk. "Don't worry about Sarah there," Luke gestured toward the door his sister had departed through, "She just always gets worked up about strangers around, that's all."

Scully spoke up, "Why?" She remained calm, and friendly. "We mean no harm, we have no weapons. How can we be a threat to you?"

"Oh," Luke grinned, showing off his crooked teeth, "She just thinks everyone is a gover'ment agent. She don't like no gover'ment people."

Scully stole a glance to check Mulder's reaction. Mulder appeared totally nonchalant and only mildly interested in the conversation. He was staring at the large beams that formed the roof.

Scully tried again, "Why? What's wrong with government people coming here? Do you have something to hide?"

Luke ducked his head at this comment and took a step backward. Avoiding Scully's last comment, Luke replied, "Pa tells us over and over that the gover'ment is too big for it's britches and don't really care about the people. They just want what all anyone's got to their name. Always trying to take our land 'n stuff. He says the gover'ment is one big," Luke shuffled his feet and cocked his head appearing to be in deep thought. "What's that word he's always usin'? Oh, yeah...one big conspiracy." Luke's self-satisfied grin took over his face again, happy that he could remember the hard word.

Mulder snorted, and almost laughed out loud. He turned his head toward Scully, "See," he said triumphantly, "I'm not the only one that thinks so."

"You agree with my Pa?" Luke's eyes opened big. Surely, he thought, gover'ment people wouldn't think bad about themselves. Maybe Sarah was wrong about these two.

Scully gave a small shake of her head and began another tact.

"Luke," Scully said calmly, "Why aren't you in school?"

Luke snickered. "What do I need book learnin' for? What good is it gonna do me out here? Is it gonna help me build my own cabin? Catch food?" Luke leaned in close to Scully and with a lustful look added, "Or a wife?"

Scully tried not to shrink back as a wave of Luke's body odor washed over her.

"Don't you like being with kids your age?" Scully countered with.

"My age?" Luke repeated stupidly. "There ain't no one else my age." He pulled out a cane-backed, wooden chair from it's place near the table. "Actually, that's the real reason I don't go to school - there ain't no school. I'm the youngest person in these here parts. There's no one to teach." Luke displayed his goofy smile, as if that piece of information made him special some how.

"No one your age?" Scully's face showed confusion. "Surely, there is more than just your family out here in these mountains."

"Well, sure there is," Luke replied. "Let's see," and he began silently counting on his fingers while mumbling under his breath. This continued for some time. Mulder began to fidget on the bed. He could feel things jumping on his arms from the blanket. Fleas immediately came to mind. Mulder wiped up and down his shackled arm with his free hand.

Scully, thinking Luke had lost track of the conversation, opened her mouth to ask another question. Before she could get anything out, though, Luke proudly spoke up.

"There's twenty two families here in Hollow Log," he said with pride.

"I'm a doctor, and I find it highly interesting that none of the women here have gotten pregnant in your life time," Scully said. She tried to judge his age, "Why, you must be at least 14."

Luke shook his head. "15," he said proudly and quickly. "And you ain't no doctor. Women don't become doctors!" Luke scoffed. Scully tried not to bristle at his ignorance, knowing his lack of education and teaching. Luke continued to answer her, "I didn't say no women were with-child out here, I said there weren't no one else to teach. Women get in the family way all the time, but somethin' happens and none of the little babies makes it past the birthin'. Lest wise, none that I've seen."

Scully was deep in doctor mode now. "Do you have a mid-wife that helps the women out here? Or a doctor of any kind?"

"Why would we need a doctor? Ain't no one ever got sick here that I can remember," Luke responded.

Scully repeated rather incredulously, "No one ever gets sick?"

"Must be that pure, clean, mountain water up here," Mulder quipped.

Scully ignored him, "Luke, don't you think babies not being born constitutes someone being sick?"

Apparently, Luke didn't make the connection between the two. "It ain't the water," he responded to Mulder.

Mulder's interest was piqued now. "What then?"

"Just never you mind."

"Luke," Scully tried again, "Is your mother alive?"

Luke ignored her question as he stood up and moved in closer to her once again. "Why ain't you married?" he asked leaning in to smell Scully's neck.

Scully felt Mulder tense at Luke's actions. Surreptitiously her cuffed hand covered his. She needed Mulder to stay calm. If she could handle flukemen and Donnie Pfaster, surely she could handle a 15 year old boy.

Mulder relaxed slightly, realizing trying to jump Luke at this moment was not the time. He was expertly handling the Glock, and he had a feeling Luke knew his way around guns and prey.

"Luke," Scully almost purred, changing the subject once again, "would you get me some water? I really seem to have gotten overheated walking to your place." Mulder watched Scully reward Luke with one of her best smiles.

Luke reached out to touch Scully's hair as he considered her request. Scully's pearly whites continued to do their job. Finally, Luke answered, "Sure."

He suddenly turned from the agents and he headed into the kitchen area of the cabin. Placing the gun near the sink, Luke pulled a tin cup down from an open cabinet and placed it in the deep metal sink. With his other hand, he began to move the handle of the water pump up and down. In a few, short strokes, water cleared the pipe and filled the metal cup. He stopped pumping, picked up the gun and the tin cup and crossed back over to Scully, whose smile had never dimmed.

Luke casually placed the gun on the corner of the scared, wooden table and came within an arm's length of the bed. He held the cup out toward Scully's free hand. Instead, Scully reached with her left hand, the one shackled to Mulder, whose arm now moved with hers. But she moved slowly, so as not to alarm Luke. She brought the cup almost to her lips, but instead of drinking the water, she suddenly flung the contents in Luke's face. In the instant it took Luke to automatically close his eyes as he saw the water coming his way, Scully stood to her feet, and hit Luke on the chin with a right hook.

Luke stumbled back from the blow. One leg came in contact with the chair that he had pulled out previously and caused him to fall backward. He tried to turn his body and catch himself with his hands on the table. He was not fast enough. His forehead struck the edge of the table with enough force that he didn't even have enough time to cry out as he slipped to the floor like a rag doll.

Scully automatically headed toward Luke to check the damage she had inflicted. While getting away was paramount, killing Luke was not on her agenda. Mulder, in a hurry to be on his way, bounced from foot to foot as she checked. "Come on, Scully, let's go!" he pleaded.

"Mulder, I have to check," was her reply. She felt for a pulse and checked his pupil reaction before standing back up and nodding to Mulder that Luke was OK.

"The key," Mulder mumbled as he crossed over Scully to check the mantle where the handcuffs had lain. He could plainly see there was no key there. He pocketed Creighton's ID case before turning back to Luke. Scully was one step ahead of Mulder and reached over to the table to pick up the Glock. It felt light. She checked the magazine: empty. Mulder and Scully were more than disappointed. Not wanting to leave government property or evidence behind, she stuffed the useless gun behind her back in her waistband, and without another word she and Mulder turned toward the door of the cabin and stepped out into the dirt yard. That's when they had begun running.

Lost In the Woods
Present Time

The handcuffs continued to saw at her flesh, and she winced again as Mulder unexpectedly changed directions. She finally cried out, "Mulder, stop!"

Mulder looked back at her and then followed her gaze to where she was staring at her wrist.

"Geez, Scully," Mulder voiced in alarm when he saw the raw and bleeding abrasion. "Why didn't you say something?"

Scully, never eager to announce or promote her discomfort only said, "It's all right. Just hold my hand to loosen the tension on my wrist.

"Wait a minute," he said. He pulled the tail of his tee shirt completely out of his jeans and ripped off a long piece from the hem. Gently moving the metal bracelet as much out of the way as possible, he carefully wrapped the wound. "There, that should help stop the bleeding and cushion the cuts, too." When Mulder finished dressing her wrist, he enveloped her small hand in his before moving on again.

To further aggravate their current situation, it began to rain. Lightly at first, but it soon became a downpour. Being in the lead Mulder began to scout for some kind of shelter; an outcropping of rock, or a thick canopy of overhead branches, anything that would prevent them from being continually drenched. What light remained in the early afternoon was already slipping behind the mountain peaks to the west. While they had sweated earlier as they tramped through the woods, they knew the temperature would drop quickly now. Being wet was not going to be pleasant when the cold set in.

Then he spotted it. A huge, old tree, obviously dead. It supported many limbs, but no vegetation. But more importantly, it had once been hit down low by lightening and a large split had occurred in the trunk. Over time, as the tree had died, it had also hollowed out. He wasn't sure they both could fit in it, but they would have to try.

"Come on," he urged, gently pulling on Scully's hand. "This way." Scully obediently followed, what choice did she have? Mulder finally stopped. "In here," was all he said. Scully came from behind him to look at his idea of shelter. Despite the efforts of running through the woods for almost two hours she was shivering in her tank top.

"Think we'll both fit?"

"I don't know," Mulder answered, "but if we don't, I'm not going to be the one to stand out here, so suck it up G-woman!" Scully was not going to be the problem, he knew. She was thin and petite. He didn't have any flab on him, but his shoulders were broad.

"You get in first, and I'll squeeze into whatever room is left," Scully said.

"You just want to make sure if there are any bears hibernating in there, they'll eat me first," he replied. Mulder ducked his head and turned his shoulders at a right angle and worked his way inside the tree. At the moment, his all consuming hope was that there weren't any spiders that had taken up residence in the old tree.

His arm hung out the opening, still attached to Scully. "Come on in," he invited when he was situated. Scully stooped down to look inside, to better gage how much room she would have to work with. It would be a tight fit, but dry, her brain told her. She carefully worked her way inside to avoid Mulder's toes and hopefully not elbow that sensitive groin area men had.

Finally, she was inside. She felt like a baby in a womb. It was dark, tight, she couldn't turn around, and she was wet. Due to the handcuff situation, she and Mulder were forced to face each other. But in the falling light, they soon wouldn't be able to see each other anyway. Being about a foot shorter than Mulder, Scully had a splendid view of his tee shirt. "It's a good thing neither of us is claustrophobic," she said.

The really good news was that with such a small space to heat, their natural body temperature would warm the area quickly and be some protection from the coming night. Mulder looked down at Scully. He couldn't see much; mostly just her red hair plastered to the top of her head. She leaned her head back just then to look up at him.

Her hair was dripping wet and clung to her delicate, white face in strands here and there. Her pale skin accentuated her startling blue eyes. Little rivulets of water ran off her hair, down her cheeks, and dripped onto her already soaked back, shoulders and chest. She was still shivering involuntarily.

Mulder suddenly realized that he could not only see through her wet shirt, but also through her bra. Not only that, it was becoming painfully obvious just how cold she was. He could feel her hard nipples rubbing against his chest each time she shivered. His jeans suddenly began to feel very tight. He began rubbing her bare arms to quickly help warm her up.

Pressed as close as they were, Scully could feel every inch of Mulder from his chest down. Slowly she became conscious of his awareness of her. She looked at him incredulously. "Mulder, you have got to be kidding!" was all she said. "We are running for our lives, and you have time to think of sex?" Though Scully knew this activity was entirely involuntary on his part, she still couldn't believe it. It was certainly the last thing on her mind!

Mulder valiantly tried to appear unconcerned and only replied, "What can I say, Scully, I've got a thing for chicks in wet tee shirts." Then he added, "Don't worry, it'll pass." Mulder continued to rub her arms, but he looked over Scully's head and began to think of all the basketball plays he knew to divert his mind's attention from the immediate situation. Scully just shook her head in disbelief before resting her forehead against his chest in silent resignation.

Morning came after a very long night. Mulder had been awake for some time; sleep was never his best subject, even when exhausted. It had rained off and on most of the night, but had finally stopped a little bit ago. His back and knees ached from being in the same position for hours. There was no way to move about inside the tree trunk. The most he could do was shift his weight from one leg to the other. He had tried not to move too much because Scully was finally sleeping peacefully, her cheek resting on his chest. Actually, though Mulder didn't mind at all, her whole body was pretty much leaning against him. Sometime during the night to help brace herself, Scully had put her unshackled arm around his waist and placed her thumb in one of Mulder's belt loops.

When he'd first noticed she was falling asleep, he had some concern about her sliding down during the night and scraping her back on the rough wood. So he'd placed his cuffed hand on her narrow waist and encircled her shoulders with his free arm to try and steady her so she could sleep more comfortably. At least, that is what he told himself in the wee hours of the night, not wanting to admit even to himself, how peaceful it made him feel to hold her close to him.

Scully's body suddenly jerked as a locked knee gave out. Mulder automatically gripped her tighter to prevent her from falling. "Oh!" Scully exclaimed as she was rudely awakened, thinking she was falling. Half asleep still, she automatically tried to grab Mulder with her free hand, forgetting her thumb was tangled in his belt loop, nearly ripping the loop off. She looked up at him gratefully as she realized he had hold of her. "Thanks," she said thickly.

"Hey," he said ribbing her, "watch what you're grabbing back there! The FBI has strict rules about fraternizing with other agents." Then he added, "Morning. Time to rise and shine!" Mulder tried to sound jovial but didn't quite pull it off. He removed his hands from her body. "Let's get out of here."

Scully just nodded her head in agreement and tried to stoop down to lead the way out. Her legs wouldn't cooperate. They had been locked so long they were stiff. "Just a minute," she said and began to lift her legs a few inches off the ground one at a time to loosen her muscles up. Eventually she was able to get them to work and she squeezed out from the inside of the tree and went down on her knees, her arm still dangling inside the tree trunk.

Mulder took just as long to get out. He couldn't quite get his six foot frame to contort on command either. Finally, he joined her outside. He, too, went down on his knees to rest his back and leg muscles in a new position.

After a few moments he felt Scully moving around. "Uh, oh," was all she said.

"What?" He glanced her way.

"Mulder, I hate to tell you this, but I really gotta pee," she looked slightly embarrassed. Attached as they were, she was not going to have the luxury of modesty or privacy.

"Uh, OK." Mulder looked around for a suitable place that would afford some sort of screen for her. Scully spotted one first, a few yards away. There was a medium sized bush growing very close to a tree that she could slip between and be partially hidden. It was better than being out in the open.

Scully and Mulder stood up and stiffly walked over. Scully slipped between the bush and the tree. Mulder heard her unzip her jeans, and felt her shifting as she pushed them down over her hips, along with her underwear, he assumed.

"Well?" he heard her say and felt a jerk on his arm.

"What?" he said, automatically turning in her direction.

"Mulder!" Scully shouted at him.

Mulder immediately turned back around. "Sorry! I thought you wanted something!" he replied.

"I do," she said. "You're going to have to squat down some, because I'm not doing this standing up!"

"Oh, yeah, sorry." He squatted down, if possible feeling even more strange with his arm pulled behind his back. He tried to make light of the situation. "Well, Scully, this isn't exactly how I imagined it would be when you finally succumbed to my boyish charms and shed your clothes for me."

"You wish!" she threw back. It was quite for a moment.


"Yeah?" This time he didn't turn toward her voice.

"It's too quiet. Hum something."

Mulder raised his eyebrows at this crazy suggestion. "What?"

"Just do it, Mulder!"

What kind of music went with peeing, he wondered. After a moment's thought he began whistling.

Scully successfully stifled a giggle when she recognized the tune: "Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog". Mulder went through the chorus about four times before he felt her standing up. So he stood, too, and stopped whistling when he heard her zip up her jeans.

"Don't bother coming out, Scully."

She poked her head through the opening. "Why not?"

"'Cause it's your turn to whistle."

Scully had a hard time whistling due to her laughing.

"OK, you can stop now," Mulder said as he zipped and snapped his jeans.

Scully came through the bushes, grinning. "I've heard of partner bonding activities, but I don't think this is in the manual."

"I don't know, Scully, I think it beats building a tower of furniture together."

Scully passed on a reply and turned her mind toward more pressing matters now that her bladder wasn't pressing on her. "Which way is out, do you suppose?"

"I'm not sure," he answered. They were quiet for a moment, thinking. "Listen," Mulder said.

Scully dutifully put her ears on alert for any unusual sound. Problem was, she wasn't sure what she was listening for.

"Hear that?" Mulder questioned.

"All I hear is rushing water."

"Yeah. I guess we couldn't hear it in the rain last night. There must be a stream nearby, probably full and overflowing after last night's rain. If we follow it, eventually it's got to lead us somewhere, or maybe we'll run across some hikers or locals that can direct us out."

Scully had lots of doubts about all those ifs and ors, but she also recognized it as the best plan at this point. They followed the sound of rushing water until they caught sight of the stream. They began to walk in the same direction as the flowing water, all the while looking for signs that might indicate any kind of trail.

Mulder's stomach began rumbling. Loudly. Once or twice Scully looked over in his direction when it spoke up. Mulder just shrugged. He hadn't eaten since breakfast yesterday. "I'm a growing boy, what can I say?" he quipped.

"What, no sunflower seeds on you?" Scully asked dryly.

Mulder spied a bush with some kind of berries on it and reached over to pluck some. It was a moment before Scully saw what he was doing. Just as he was about to pop some berries into his mouth, she slapped his arm, hard, knocking them out of his hand.

"Ow! What'd you do that for?"

"Because those are probably poisonous berries, Mulder. Don't you know anything about surviving in the woods? I know you've been through survival training. Obviously you didn't listen. It's not wise to eat from a bush full of berries in the woods. If the animals aren't eating them, chances are you shouldn't either."

Mulder raised his eyebrows. The woods were not where he usually practiced surviving. Give him a big old city with lots of back alleyways, large empty warehouses, vampires, and aliens; those he knew how to survive.

"Quit worrying about your stomach," she added. "You could stand to lose a few pounds." Scully grinned, "The fasting will be good for your soul," and then she teasingly added, "even your reincarnated soul will probably benefit."

Mulder made a face behind her back as she walked ahead of him.

Several hours passed, and still the stream had led them to no particular place. They were hot and tired. The sun had come out again in full force. At least they had plenty of fresh water to keep them from dehydrating. But the water didn't do much to fill up Mulder's empty stomach.

As they rounded what seemed like the hundredth bend that day, Scully saw two men in the distance fishing. They were wearing the traditional plaid shirts of the outdoorsman, along with khaki shorts and silly square hats with lures and hooks sticking out of them. Scully pointed out to Mulder the tent pitched off to the side, two camp chairs facing a dead fire, and a cooler.

Mulder hoped it was stuffed with real food, and not headless, raw fish.

"Hey!" Scully called out and waved to them with her free hand. Mulder waved also. The fishermen heard her voice, and raised their hands in return.

Possessing only an FBI badge that had neither one of their likeness attached to it, Scully doubted they would believe that she and Mulder were FBI agents. It was best to stick to pretending they were just a couple lost in the woods. "Let me do the talking," Scully whispered to Mulder and then turned back to the men. Mulder was only too happy to oblige.

"Don't forget to tell them we're hungry," he whispered back. Scully ignored him.

"Hello," one of the men said in a friendly voice when they had gotten close enough to speak properly. Then he took in their disheveled appearance. A look of concern crossed his face. "Looks like you folks have run into some trouble. Are you all right?"

"Yes!" Scully answered happily. "We're fine! But we did have some trouble last night and we're so glad we ran across you! We got off the road, and our jeep broke down, and we had to spend the night in the rain, and we've been hiking all day looking for help!" She looked back at Mulder for confirmation of her story. Mulder was trying not to look amazed. Scully, the truth bearer and seeker was lying through her teeth, and doing it very well. His estimation of her shot up a few notches. He didn't know she had it in her!

As Scully looked at Mulder she suddenly realized how bad they looked. Mulder did not look like a happy camper at all. His tee shirt was torn and muddy, there were streaks of mud on his jeans and his face, which also needed a shave, and his hair had not exactly dried flat from last night. They both looked like they might have escaped from a mental ward. Scully instinctively began to finger comb her hair. As her hands went up to smooth her hair, one of Mulder's arm came up with them. She had forgotten about the handcuffs.

The two men's eye grew wide, and they both instinctively took a step backwards.

"Oh!" Scully said, putting her hand down quickly behind her back. "Oh, don't worry about those!" She turned to look at Mulder. "They, uh," she couldn't think of anything to say.

"Well," Mulder stepped up to the conversation plate, a sly grin appearing on his face, "what my friend is trying not to say is," he paused to leer at Scully, "that she's a little embarrassed by our sex games, but I'm sure you guys understand." Mulder moved closer to Scully's side.

Then Mulder shrugged his shoulders and cast his eyes downward in humility, " I was pretending to be an FBI agent and she was pretending to be a fugitive." Scully shifted her eyes sideways to stare in disbelief at Mulder. He continued, "And after she let me catch her," he looked adoringly at her, all the while avoiding Scully's elbow as she tried to jab him inconspicuously, "we put on the handcuffs, you know, pretend like, and well, you fellows know how the game goes after that." Mulder was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

The men, who really had no clue what he was talking about, dumbly nodded their heads in agreement and grinned whole-heartedly. Scully was sure the only reason they couldn't see her blush from anger was because of all the mud on her face.

"Anyway," Mulder continued, "somehow in the heat of passion last night, while we, well, while we had, aw, you fellows know what I mean," a sheepish grin covered Mulder's face, "we lost the keys. Both the jeep and the cuff keys were on the same ring." It was all Scully could do not to pulverize him into the ground right then and there.

But she badly wanted these men's help. And she could see they were buying the whole story. The men were trying not to laugh outright, but their bodies shook from the effort. They couldn't wait to get home. This story was going to beat any fishing story they'd told in the past!

One of the men spoke up as if it had happened to them a hundred times before, "Well, of course, we understand how that sort of thing happens."

"Anyway," Scully spoke up to get them back on track, "we were wondering if you have anything to help us get these off, and if you could direct us back to the main road?" Mulder leaned close to her again and whispered, "Food, don't forget food!" Scully just ignored him.

An hour later, they were on their way. The men had a hatchet they had brought to chop wood with, and after several good licks, they were able to break the chain between the handcuffs and set Mulder and Scully free, albeit they each still had an unwanted bracelet with which they had to contend. The fishermen also offered them some sandwiches and soft drinks, which Mulder literally wolfed down and then unashamedly asked for more.

One of the men drew a simple map as Mulder and Scully were eating. He handed it to Mulder, along with a canteen of water, as they stood to leave. "Just stay with the path, on an easterly direction, and you should reach a forestry service road. Then turn south on that road and there is a Ranger station on down a ways. There isn't a ranger there 24 hours a day, but they do stop in the station at least once a day. They will be able to help you get your jeep taken care of and get you back to civilization." He smiled as he stuck out his hand for a final handshake good by. In his opinion, whether or not they caught any fish this trip, these two had just made the whole trip worthwhile!

When they were finally by themselves Mulder attempted to make conversation. Scully had been particularly monosyllabic since meeting up with the fishermen. Mulder easily recognized the fuming stage she was in and had wisely left her alone while at the camp. Now he tried to make amends.

"What's wrong with what I told them? It obviously worked. We gained their empathy, and garnered no suspicion about the handcuffs." Mulder really didn't see the problem.

Scully knew there was no explaining to Mulder how humiliating his story was for her. He simply wouldn't understand. Instead she retorted sarcastically, "Maybe I wanted to be the FBI agent, the dominate one, and be the one to capture you!"

"Oh," Mulder said, the light coming into his eyes, nodding in his male understanding.

Scully just stared at him incredulously once again. He really had no clue.

After walking a half hour or so, Mulder tried conversation again.

"I sure wish they'd had a cell phone or CB in their truck. Can you imagine going anywhere without them in this day and age?" Mulder asked as he swatted another gnat buzzing around him.

"Perhaps that's why they call it "getting away from it all" out here in the wilderness, Mulder," was Scully's cynical reply.

"Well, they could have offered us a ride to the Ranger station, don't you think?" he continued his whining. He really hated the woods, he hated walking, and he hated not having his gun or cell phone.

"Mulder, they just got here. They are planning on spending the next five days out here. Why would they want to take us back?"

Mulder didn't bother speaking again for quite a while. As long as Scully was in 'this mood', there would be no rational discussions, or sympathy for him.

After walking for almost thirty minutes on a trail that could barely be called a trail, an unexpected fork appeared. Mulder and Scully stopped. Each looked first one way and then the other. Then Mulder peered over Scully's shoulder as she studied the crude map. "Not in the plans, huh?"

Mulder then reached into his pocket pretending to search for a coin. "Heads or tails, Scully?"

She didn't even grace him with a roll of her eyes. "I think we should be a little more scientific about this, actually," she replied. Mulder raised his eyebrows.

"Scientific?" he repeated. "There's actually something scientific mixed in here?"

"Well, yes," Scully replied looking at him as if he'd left his brains back in the cabin with Luke. "We've been traveling in basically a northeast direction since we left the fishermen. They said the main road was about five miles east of the river. This path," she indicated with her head, "continues in that same general direction, while that path," Scully pointed with her left hand, "pretty much looks to be going north by northwest. To take that one would be like doubling back from where we've been." Scully stared at him as if to say, "How obvious could it be?"

Mulder didn't much care for her attitude. He knew she didn't know any more about where they were or where they were going than he did. Besides, the left fork just *seemed* right to him. He felt the urge to go that way. "I don't know, Scully, the trail could wind back in an easterly direction. You can't tell unless we walk down it a little ways. He turned to take a step in that direction.

"Mulder, you have the homing ability of a blind wombat," Scully said without much sympathy in her voice. As she began to walk down the path she had chosen.

Mulder felt something rise in his throat, but he refused to be baited. They needed each other out here. Fussing and fighting was not going to get them home safely. Still, she needn't be so smug with her pronouncements about his abilities, he thought to himself.

Mulder tried to diffuse the tension. He grinned, "Call it woman's intuition."

Turning back to face him, hands on her hips, Scully stated the obvious, "Mulder, you're not a woman."

"Let's just say I'm really in touch with my feminine side then." Scully's eyebrow arched up in it's practiced style of disbelief.

"I thought we were going to be scientific about this."

"Tell you what, Scully. You stay right here for ten minutes while I walk a little of the path and see where it goes. I'll walk five minutes, then turn around and come back." He saw the hesitation in her face. She didn't want to fight either, but she wasn't sure which path was correct any more than he was. "Ok?" he added, shading his face to be able to better read hers and shifting from foot to foot impatiently while she made up her mind.

"Fine," was Scully's final decision. She sat down on a fallen log and pulled the canteen the fishermen had given them from off her shoulder. "You go play scout." Mulder immediately turned to leave. "Ten minutes, Mulder, ten minutes and then I walk down my path!" she shouted her empty threat after his retreating form. They both knew she would wait until the end of time for him to return. At the very least, she would eventually follow after him if he did not return.

Scully settled down to a long wait. She knew Mulder had no intention of taking only ten minutes. She could use the rest, though she'd never tell Mulder that. Scully wiped the back of her hand across her forehead leaving smears of dirt to mingle with her sweat. She began to engross herself in finding ways to waste ten minutes or more.

She inspected her now severely ruined shoes. She couldn't wait to put them on her expense report when she got back. She idylly wondered if she still had the receipt so she could prove just how expensive they had been. She then checked her chaffed wrist where the handcuffs had done their work. It'll heal, passed through her mind. She began a general cataloguing of her cuts and bruises, then tried to finger comb her hair away from her face, desperately wishing for a rubber band.

Sitting with her head in her hands, Scully wondered how long Mulder had been gone. She was sure that at least thirty minutes had gone by now. The combination of boredom, lack of good sleep the night before, and the warm sun pressing down on her weary body made Scully's eyes droop. She slipped off into a light doze. However, her attention was fully restored when she felt the muzzle of a shotgun digging into her back. She instantly stiffened.

"Don't go doin' anything stupid now," she heard an unfamiliar voice instruct her.

"Who are you? What do you want?" spilled from Scully's mouth. Stall, stall, was all her brain was screaming at her. Mulder will be back soon. Stall.

"Not that it matters much'in to you, ma'am, but my name is Herb Woodall." The stranger paused for a moment, the gun left her back, and Scully's peripheral vision caught Herb as he moved around to her side. Scully made no sudden moves.

Herb started speaking again. "Toss me that gun I see ya got back there."

Scully reluctantly complied, replying, "It's not loaded," as she pulled Creighton's gun from her waistband. She tossed it at Herb's feet. He left it there.

"You that doctor Luke's been blabbing about?"

"Luke?" Scully repeated, trying to avoid answering anything until she knew more, and again, stalling.

"Yeah, Luke Fielder," Herb said as if she might really know him. "Him 'n his sister caught a couple on their property yesterday. Seems the couple roughed him up pretty good. When he come to, he described a woman like you with red hair and fancy clothes who said she was a doctor. Of all things!" Herb exclaimed as if the thought of a woman doctor really surprised him.

Scully looked down at her now filthy clothing. It was raged and stained now, too. 'Fancy clothes' indeed. Still she said nothing.

"Well?" Herb tried again.

"Well, what?" Scully said softly.

Herb shook his head as if realizing he might be talking to someone slower than himself. He patiently tried again. "Are you that doctor lady?"

Suspecting retribution for her actions against Luke, Scully tried another tack, "Do you need a doctor?"

Almost exasperated by this line of questioning, and used to much more direct conversation, Herb sighed. His faced sagged a little as he answered her question. "Yeah, I do." Then he corrected himself. "Actually, it's my wife that's needin' a doctor. She's been in labor an awfully long time now, but can't seem to get the baby out. After Luke and his family came around last night telling this wild story about two gover'ment people running around beating up on 'em for no reason and mentioning that the red haired lady said she was a doctor, I decided to set out and try to find ya. Now," and Scully noted the finality in his voice, "are ya that doctor lady or not?"

Where was Mulder? was all Scully could think. He should have been back by now!

Mulder was far, far down the path now. As soon as he had gotten out of Scully's sight, he had begun a light jog to cover more ground in the five minutes he had been given to head in one direction. Something seemed to be actually pulling him in this direction. Something Scully would never admit to, nor believe in. Knowing full well he was way past his five minute turn-around time, Mulder pressed on. Just another minute, he kept repeating to himself.

Finally, Mulder reached what he believed to be the end of the path. It did not lead to a road. He had somehow already known that it wouldn't. Instead, he could see that he was coming upon a clearing. Mulder slowed down his pace to avoid making too much noise. He hunkered down as he approached the clearing, staying behind trees and bushes while he checked out the space.

His eyes widened as he took the whole scene in. In the center of the clearing was a metal cylinder topped of with a cone hat that made it resemble an extremely fat, miniature rocket. The rocket sat on a stand that was built about a foot off of the ground, leaving enough space for a fire to be built under it. Confirmation of a previous fire was evidenced by the burned ashes and sections of wood that had missed being total consumed.

The cone hat had copper tubing coming out the top. The copper had been twisted in a series of loops, forming a free standing spiral that made it's way across an expanse of dirt to another large vat, this one with no top on it, in which the tubing spiraled downward and disappeared into.

Mulder grinned as he recognized the scenario as that of an illegal still exactly like pictures he had seen in the FBI files from decades ago. He hadn't really believed they still existed in this day and age of liquor stores on every corner and in most grocery stores.

Still crouching down, he continued to observe the area before venturing into the clearing. He sweated out two more minutes before finally moving toward the contraption. He was trying not to think of how mad Scully was going to be when he got back. But he just knew there was something to be discovered here if he'd just take the time. He wished for the tenth time that she had come with him.

Suddenly a noise from the other side of the still made him freeze in his tracks. He heard the sound again. It was definitely the moan of someone in pain.

Scully studied the cabin as she entered the dirt yard. A short walk through the woods, again, on no path that she could discern, had brought her to another cabin in the woods. She was glad to see that while it resembled Luke's, it was not the same one. For all she knew, Herb could have been taking her back to face Luke and his family. But what awaited her here was much worse, on many levels.

Scully could hear screaming coming from the cabin. She quickened her pace a little. Entering the dimness of the cabin after the brilliance of the afternoon sun caused her to pause for a moment until her eyes could adjust. Scully could make out the forms of two women who were apparently in attendance for the birthing. She could hear them talking in hushed tones in the corner.

"I hold Herb he should have given Mazy the medicine every day." The other woman was nodding in agreement. "If he had, Mazy wouldn't be having this trouble. It's too early. They'd have been back to get it if'n it was time. It shouldn't be happin' this way." The women immediately clamed up when they heard Herb's loud voice.

"You're the doctor, help her!" the man urged Scully further into the room.

When Scully could finally see the source of the pain-laden screams, her pulse quickened. Laying on the dirty wooden table was a woman, very near full term with child, her knees up, screaming, and apparently trying to give birth.

Scully walked to one end of the table and lifted the woman's skirt. It was not good. The table was filthy and there was blood and mucus substance smeared on and into the surface. Scully gave a cursory examine and discovered the problem; the baby was breech.

"This woman needs a cesarean section immediately." She wasn't sure if Herb even understood what she was saying. She turned to face him to give him an explanation. She didn't have to explain it. He held up a hunting knife to her. Scully's eyes widened in response.

"You're kidding!"

The man just pushed the knife into her hands, still training the shotgun on her. Scully knew it was useless to protest. These people obviously had no where to go and no one to turn to. She would have to try.

Mulder retreated quickly and quietly back to the edge of the clearing. He began circling through the woods toward the sound. After a few steps he could see past the still to where the sounds were coming from. What Mulder saw made his guts queasy. On the opposite side of the clearing was a small cage. And inside the cage was what looked like a human form. It was hard to tell from where he was. However, the human sounds of pain emanating from the cage confirmed Mulder's suspicions.

Mulder quietly crept toward the cage, staying hidden by foliage. By the time he was close enough to touch the cage, he had deduced that there was no one else in the vicinity. Certainly no one was taking care of this person. The caged human had not detected Mulder yet. Lost in his own world of pain and suffering, he was immune to the real world.

Mulder studied the man, or what was left of him. He was filthy, and Mulder could smell excrement as he got closer. The man had obviously been in the cage for some time. He had black, scruffy hair, and a beard that matched. Mulder judged it to be about two weeks old, give or take a day. There were weeping sores up and down both arms, and deep cuts across both calves. Mulder winced as he realized the cuts probably went to the bone. The man's shirt was ripped and torn in the pattern that a whip makes.

Deciding that it was all right to make his presence known, Mulder spoke up. Still, for cautions sake, he whispered.

"Hey, hey!" Mulder stage whispered, trying to break though to the man's reality.

The man tried to turn over, to turn toward Mulder's voice. He couldn't quite maneuver it, though, and let out a scream. Mulder realized his position made it awkward for the prisoner and shifted himself out into the clearing so he could be seen.

Not recognizing Mulder, and fearing more afflictions upon his person, the prisoner tried to cringe into the corner. Again, his body would not cooperate and he gave up in defeat.

"Who are you? What happened? Why have they done this to you?" Questions tumbled out of Mulder's mouth as he sought answers. Oh, how he really wished Scully had come with him now.

The caged man cocked his head at the questions, the soft voice. Finally recognizing that this man was not one of the people that had been hurting him, he began to cry in relief.

Meanwhile, Mulder having already surmised that the door was securely locked, had been running his hands over the bars searching for a weakness, or another way out for the prisoner. Finding none, he squatted back down by the man, carefully sitting up wind of him.

"Help me," was all the man could say, barely above a whisper. His eyes pleading his plight.

"Who are you?" Mulder repeated slowly and quietly.

"Agent Frank Creighton of the FBI," he answered carefully. "Do you believe me?" his eyes begged once more for help.

"Yes," Mulder answered quickly. "I've been sent here to find you." Creighton's eyes brightened a little with hope. "What happened to you?"

"There's no time," he gasped. "The important thing is this," and in a sudden move, he gripped Mulder's arm through the bars. There was no strength in the grip, but Mulder felt the urgency, none the less. "You must believe what I am about to say. I'm not crazy, and I'm not drugged." Creighton struggled to fill his lungs and winced. Mulder sympathized; he was familiar with the painful sensation of trying to breath with broken ribs.

"Easy, easy," Mulder encouraged. "Go slow."

"No, must tell you now. Not much time left." Mulder just nodded his head in agreement and encouragement. It seemed better not to interrupt.

"This community...strange...women get pregnant, but no children born in over ten years." Tears filled Creighton's eyes as he struggled through his pain to get his story out. A moan escaped his lips. Mulder reached through the bars, cradled his head and tried to ease him into another position. "It's OK, I've got another agent with me. She's a doctor. She'll be here soon to help you."

Creighton's breathing evened out a little. He began to speak again. His next words caught Mulder's complete attention.

"Aliens...hybrids...they visit every so often...experiment...this still...special fluids needed for development of fetus...come back....harvest..."

"But why would the people cooperate with their babies being taken or changed?" Mulder asked.

Creighton coughed a little, tried to suck in a lung full of air, tears sprang to his eyes as his lung was jabbed by a rib. After a moment he spoke again, "Health benefits...no sickness...guess they think it's a good trade." Mulder didn't bother to speak out loud what he was thinking: what's the point of good health if you are all going to die off eventually and have no offspring to continue your gene line?" Creighton's words came to an end and his eyes closed.

Mulder searched for a pulse. It was still there, but very weak and thready. Where was Scully? Surely she would have started down the path looking for him by now! He needed her here, now. Even so, it didn't look like Creighton was going to make it.

There was nothing Mulder was going to be able to do for him. At least he was not suffering at this moment. His best course of action was to go and get Scully and bring her back. He gently placed Creighton's head on the bottom of the cage and sped back up the path toward Scully.

What seemed like a lifetime later, Scully sat on the cabin's rickety front steps. She was tired, used up, and emotionally stripped. It had been brutal. There was no anesthesia, and no instruments with which to work. Herb had plied his wife with half a jug of whiskey before she quit screaming and was drunk enough to be somewhat still, though she moaned throughout the procedure. Scully thought she did pass out for a short time after her first incision into the woman's belly on her way to the womb. Scully was still appalled that she had sown the woman up with fishing line. But that was all that was available.

But after all the work and pain, the most tragic thing was the baby had been stillborn. As Scully had lifted the baby out to cut the umbilical cord, she knew it was dead. In her haste to attend to the woman, knowing the child was past resuscitation, she had not paid it much attention. She had quickly handed it off to one of the women there and hurried to stop the bleeding and sew the now childless mother up. She didn't even know the sex of the child. She had seen the woman carry the bundle outside and come back in quickly, so Scully assumed the child's body was nearby.

The only thing on the porch besides Scully was a box sitting on the rocking chair. She got up to go look. Scully recognized the brown cloth that was used to wrap the baby in. She slowly and carefully unwrapped the dirty material. As she removed the last fold, Scully sucked in her breath.

The child was truly grotesque. It had been malformed from the beginning. It almost appeared it was meant to be twins. The child had two arms and a small third nub under one. It's head was huge and misshapen, as if it should have separated into two people. There were more than five toes on each foot. The eyes were unusually large for the size of the head and the baby was completely covered all over it's body with a fine down of hair. There was a little slit for mouth, and not much of a nose shape.

Scully wrapped the baby back up and gently laid it back in the cardboard box. Without an autopsy, she couldn't be sure exactly what the child had died from or exactly when. She went back to sit on the steps.

Sitting there, bone tired, a thought pressed through to her brain. No one was watching over her. She stole a cursory glance around her. Everyone, including gun-toting Herb was inside the cabin, apparently drained from the birthing and death as well.

Scully stood up slowly and began backing toward the trail into the woods. After a few steps, just as she was about to turn and dart into the woods, a hand reached out and grabbed her arm from behind, jerking her off her feet into the underbrush.

"Scully!" she heard the urgent whisper say. "It's me." Mulder appeared by her side then. She started to speak but he put his finger to his lips to hush her. Then he motioned for her to follow him.

They moved as quickly and as quietly as possible away from the cabin, blazing their own trail. When Mulder felt they were far enough away, he stopped and they sat down in a patch of shade.

"Mulder," Scully was incredulous, "how did you find me?"

"Just as I got back to where we split up, I heard voices and realized you weren't alone. I was afraid if I jumped ole Herb, he'd shoot you, so I just decided to follow you and look for another opportunity. But then you went in the cabin, and I've been waiting out here for you.

"What happened back there with you Scully?" he asked. Scully related as quickly as possible the story of being hauled to the cabin by Herb only to find that her life wasn't in danger, but that a woman was in labor. She briefly told him the grim details of the birth and death of the child. Mulder was listening intently.

"Tell me about the child," he said when she finished.

"It was stillborn. There was nothing I could do about it," Scully said quietly. It was always disheartening to her, the loss of a life, but especially a child's.

Mulder didn't want to badger Scully about the baby, but he needed to know if what Agent Creighton had said could be in any way substantiated. "No, Scully, tell me what the child looked like. Was it normal in appearance?"

Scully looked at him, confusion in her eyes. "Why do you ask, Mulder?"

"I found Agent Creighton."

"Alive?" Scully asked with some hope in her voice. "Where is he now?"

Mulder nodded his head in answer to her first question, "Barely. I don't think he is going to make it out of here. He's at the end of the path I went down. He's in bad shape, and locked in a cage."

"Was he able to tell you what happened to him?"

Mulder shook his head, "Not everything, but he was able to tell me some of what he thinks is going on here."

Scully did not prompt him, she just waited patiently.

"He said," Mulder hesitated for only a moment. It didn't really matter how he worded this, Scully would raise objections to his statements and offer alternatives, as always. He started again, "He said that he thinks aliens are somehow interferring with this community's health, their growth patterns, and possibly harvesting fetuses in the hope of developing an human-alien hybrid."

Scully hissed, "What!"

"Think about it a minute," Mulder countered. "There is an apparatus that resembles a still next to where I found him. Creighton indicated that it was a special formula given to the pregnant woman for their developing fetuses." It was all Scully could do not to roll her eyes. Her eyebrow simply arched of it's own volition.

Mulder continued, "Agent Creighton said the aliens come back and harvest the fetuses. Think about it, Scully, that's why there hasn't been any children born here in over 10 years. The aliens are either taking the babies back with them, or they aren't surviving the fusion of the two species. And in exchange, they get perfect health from whatever they are drinking. Back at the cabin Luke said that no one had ever gotten sick that he could remember."

"And just why would the women and men of this community be so compliant with this project?" Scully countered.

"Maybe their lack of education can't follow the logical thread of eventual extinction. Maybe there is a threat of bodily harm if they don't comply. Maybe they just can't get a good HMO out here. I don't know Scully, it could be a million things. But don't you think we should at least check it out?"

Scully pursed her lips in disbelief as her brain sifted through what she was hearing, as well as thinking back on what she had heard the two women in the cabin talking about when she had arrived.

Mulder repeated his earlier question to Scully, "What did the baby you just delivered look like?"

Scully's eyes grew wider, "You think this baby was an human-alien hybrid?" She almost couldn't believe how he could bring aliens into every conversation they had. She snorted. "That's ridiculous, Mulder. This baby wasn't alien, it had most definite human features."

"You mean there wasn't one unusual thing about the baby?"

Scully thought about hedging, but plunged in. "No, Mulder, there were unusual aspects to the baby, but certainly within the realm of possibilities of birth defects normal to the human condition and the possibilities of constant inbreeding that could be going on in this cut-off community. You know we have seen a case like that before."

"What unusual aspects?" Mulder zeroed in.

"Like the development of a third arm, more than five toes to a foot, and an unusually large shaped head and eyes."

Mulder looked at her sideways. "And you think that is normal deformities relative to humans."

"Uh, huh. I can sight specific diseases, deformities and cases if you want," Scully was not going to back down.

"And you wouldn't consider the facts as I recited them to you from Agent Creighton as a possible cause; specifically that of a human-alien hybrid." Mulder paused. No response from Scully. "Even though the head and eyes were of unusual proportions," he added trying to be persuasive. He knew better. There would be absolutely no persuading Scully with words. She dealt in facts and science only.

Scully shook her head slowly.

"How about if there were an autopsy done on the baby? What if that produced facts of a different nature the proved to be other than human?" Mulder proposed, holding his breath.

Scully seemed to consider this offer. "Of course, if there were facts to back up your supposition, that would be something else. But Mulder," Scully blew out a breath of air in frustration, "we don't have those facts, we don't have the baby, and I'm sure these people are not going to allow an autopsy to be performed, if they even know what one is."

"What's the matter, Scully, afraid you will be proved wrong?" Mulder teased. Before she could answer, he had turned his back on her and was heading back to the cabin.

"Mulder! Wait! Where are you going?" Scully hissed as loud as she dared.

"Back to get that baby, Scully. You coming?" and he continued on in his cause.

"Mulder, those people are not going to give you that baby, and in fact, they will probably shoot you on sight."

"I'm not going to ask them, Scully."

Realization set in. "You can't just take that family's dead baby, Mulder. Surely, even you can understand that!" But Mulder wasn't listening, he was dead set on getting back to the cabin quickly.

Scully hurriedly followed after him. "Mulder! Stop! You can't do this! *I* won't do this." That stopped Mulder in his tracks.

"What are you saying, Scully?" Mulder's eyebrows knitted together in concern, showing that he already knew exactly what she was saying.

"I won't do the autopsy." One look in Scully's eyes proved her seriousness. To soften the tension between them she added, "Mulder, I cannot do an autopsy without permission of the parents. Just because we are in the backwoods of West Virginia and dealing with people of little or low intelligence and education, I am not going to break the law and dissect that baby just to satisfy your outrageous claims of a human-alien hybrid conspiracy gotten from an FBI agent that has been tortured and possibly subjected to questionable drugs, and may, in short, have fabricated such a story from the recesses of his mind."

That pretty much settled the question at this point. There was nothing else Mulder could think of to say or do.

"Let's just get out of here," Scully said, trying to steer the conversation and their direction back to the correct course.

Mulder was crushed by Scully's lack of willingness to back him up, to at least check out the facts. Though somewhere deep in the back of his mind, he knew she was right about the law. But sometimes, damn it, circumstances stood outside the law! There was nothing he could do if she wasn't going to assist him.

"Fine," was all he said, albeit, tight-lipped.

Scully knew he was upset at her decision. But she honestly couldn't bring herself to any other conclusion. Sometimes Mulder just got a wild hair, and it had to be squelched. Now was one of those times. To soften the blow, she said, "How about you lead the way to this still you found. There may be something I can do for Agent Creighton, or maybe there is something else there that you overlooked in your haste before."

Mulder stared into her cool, blue eyes. He knew she was trying to mollify him. Perhaps she was right. Maybe there would be some kind of evidence still there that he could use to justify future actions. "OK," he said quietly and passed by her, heading back to the still.

Arriving at the clearing, Scully studied the wide circular area that had been cleaned of underbrush, wood and rocks. She stared at the contraption in the center of the circle. It looked exactly like she had imagined, having seen photos of days-gone-by in history books and other sources.

It was as Mulder said, not in use at the moment. In fact, it may not have been used for weeks, it was hard to tell. She walked quickly over to the cage where Creighton was lying. He was still unconscious. She checked his pupils and his pulse. There was life yet, but she doubted it would be there for long. His breathing was very shallow and each breath produced a painful sounding rattle deep in his chest. Apparently his time here had been agonizing and tortuous. She noticed the many welts and bruises on his face and arms that were visible. They had certainly worked him over. She felt great pity for him, and a little apprehensive that she might be caught and subjected to the same methods.

A small shiver ran through her. She didn't like being here out in the open like this. She scanned the woods around her for activity in aprehension. Nothing.

There wasn't anything she could do for Creighton here. Dragging him all through the woods to civilization was not going to be of any help to his recovery either, not to mention how they were going to get him out of a locked cage to begin with. However, leaving him here wasn't an option, either.

Scully wandered over to the still to give it a closer inspection and to see if there were any tools with which they could pry open the cage. With her eyes she followed the tubing around and up and down as she traced the copper from the beginning of the operation over the dead, cold fire bed to the inevitable end of the coil dangling into the huge, empty pot. The deep cauldron also sat on a stand, making it's lip too high for Scully to see over.

Mulder, still occupied with the dying agent, began checking Creighton's pockets to see if they contained anything of use. His fingers closed on a key. He pulled it out. It was the key to the handcuffs that each of them wore. Mulder shook his head in mild disbelief. *Now* it turns up, he thought.

"Mulder," Scully called over her shoulder. He turned toward her as she continued to speak.

"Come here a minute." He dutifully came to her side, and looked down at her questioningly. He was still a little put out about the autopsy refusal to speak directly to her.

Scully raised one foot a little bit off the ground and said, "Lift me up. I want to look inside this pot."

Mulder wondered what she wanted to see, but obliged her by lacing his fingers together to give her a boost up. She placed her foot in his hands and gave a little push with her other foot to propel her off the ground. She grabbed the edge of the huge pot to help steady herself and Mulder easily balanced her weight.

She peered over the rim.

"What are you looking for?" Mulder carefully asked. It was never a good idea to push Scully before she was ready to divulge whatever was on her mind, but he was curious as to what she thought she would find in the pot besides a lot of rain water from last night.

Scully almost disappeared inside the kettle head first. As her head once again appeared above the pot, she was smiling triumphantly. In her hands she had the end of the copper tubing.

"What?" Mulder repeated.

She turned to look at Mulder without answering his question. "Put me down," was all she said. Mulder released his fingers and his muscles, and allowed gravity to do it's work. As Scully touched down, he noticed she had pulled the copper tubing down with her.

"What do you want with that?" he asked dully. Scully smiled up at him.

"Why, Agent Mulder, this is evidence."

Mulder's eyes lit up in understanding.

"You don't seem to have a bottle of this alien stuff Creighton was expounding on, but I have a coiled tube that surely contains a sample of whatever was being made here. We can take it back, have it analyzed, and see exactly what was being manufactured here, and not just guess or make suppositions any more."

If the liquid trapped in the coils were made up of any substance not of this world, they would be able to determine it in the lab, and possibly either prove or disprove Creighton's ranting.

"Scully," Mulder began as his face broke into a big smile, "what would I do without your magnificent, scientific, no hokey theories allowed without evidence required, brain?" He wanted to hug her, but necessarily restrained himself.

"I don't know," she added teasingly, "probably be confined to a certifiable loony bin by the rest of the sane world by now. Help me find something to put this in so we don't lose whatever it contains."

Mulder looked eagerly around. That would not be a problem. Bottles and cans of all shapes and sizes were scattered here and there in different piles. He searched through two piles until he found a canning jar with the lid still attached. He unscrewed the lid and set it aside. Then, stretching up, he grasped the copper tubing above five or six spirals and began bending it back and forth until the soft metal tore itself in two.

Mulder carefully held the copper so both ends pointed skyward. Then he pinched the soft metal to close the ends. Any liquid inside the copper was now contained. He positioned the U shaped metal into the jar in an upright position, screwed on the lid and held it up to view. He was delighted. If this liquid held what he suspected, Creighton's story of alien group health insurance, alien impregnation and harvesting of the babies would take another step toward being legitimized.

Now, the problem that presented itself was how to help Creighton. Just at that moment, the agent moaned. Scully and Mulder immediately moved to his side. Small, pitiful sounds emanated from him. Mulder looked at Scully imploringly, helplessly. Scully knelt down beside Creighton to try and comfort him.

"It's OK, we're friends," Scully's soothing voice washed over him.

Creighton's eye fluttered open and tried to focus on the soft sounds. Mulder spoke up, "Creighton, I'm back, I brought a doctor, another FBI agent." Creighton's eyes closed once more. Mulder tried another tact. "Creighton!" he said sharply.

No response. "Do you know where the key is to let you out? Is it here somewhere?"

Without opening his eyes again, he croaked out, "No, they took the key with them."

"Who?" Mulder asked. "Is there a name you heard? Luke? Sarah? Herb?" Mulder tried all the names he knew of from this area, but there was no response from Creighton.

Mulder tried again, "Creighton, help us. Who did this to you? Can you give us a name so we can go after them?"

Dull brown eyes opened to them once again, and a bony finger supported by a frail arm pointed skyward, "Them," was all he said. Mulder and Scully looked skyward following Creighton's finger pointing, then back at each other.

Mulder renewed his efforts to learn more. At least Creighton was awake now. He had to find out all he knew before he passed out again, or died.

"Creighton," Mulder coached again, "Do you know what was being made here?" Mulder pointed at the still.

Creighton licked his lips and tried to respond. Only a few words were recognizable, "Growth hormone ... essential ... development...woman drank...strange ingredients." He fell back from the effort. Scully brushed his hair back from his forehead as best she could through the bars.

"Mulder, stop," she ordered, "He needs to save his strength."

Mulder cut her off with a quiet hiss, "Scully, he's not going to make it. We all know that, we must find out what he knows!" Scully silenced Mulder with a quick snap of her head in his direction, eyes boring through him in anger. Mulder could read the unspoken accusation: how could he be so insensative? Not only to Creighton's situation, but his ability to still hear.

Creighton spoke up again, "It's true...must speak...crept in here one night...fire going...people all around." He paused to catch his breath. A body shaking spasm of coughs racked his body, he sagged beneath the effort to catch his breath. After a few moments he continued, "Bright light in center of clearing... when gone, giant bucket in it's place." Mulder looked at Scully to see if she was getting all this. For once, she was a witness to what he considered first hand evidence! If not for the dire situation of Agent Creighton, Mulder might have been jubilant!

He looked back as Creighton continued to speak softly, his words almost indiscernible, "people poured bucket into still.... heated it...later, woman dipped cup...drank..then men... drank...as they were leaving...saw me hiding...guess I made a noise...caught me, wanted to know what I saw."

Creighton stopped talking as his body spasmed from some unknown trigger. He coughed and blood spilled from the corner of his mouth and flecks flew on Scully's arm. Mulder and Scully waited patiently, to see if he would be able to go on.

"... searched my pockets...found my ID... gun... handcuffs...beat me... locked me in cage." A new surge of strength seemed to course through Frank Creighton at that moment, something akin to the final bit of energy making sure it got expended before time ran out. He struggled to sit up. His eyes were a little wider, but there was no spark of life in them, Scully noticed.

He spoke again, "That was about ten days ago. The people...only been back once since...but bright light... from above... been back several times... washes over me...gut pains...can't breath until light leaves... no people here to meet them."

With that full and lengthy recitation, Creighton's head rolled to one side, and a great sigh was given off. Scully looked sadly at Mulder, reached over to close Creighton's eyes, and gently removed her arms from under his body where she had tried to support him during his narrative. There wouldn't be any need to find a key to the lock. There was nothing that was going to comfort Creighton now.

Mulder stood up. It was time to get the hell out of here and back to civilization. He needed to analyze whatever was being made in this still, and he needed a team of recovery agents along with forensics to get here, and possibly try to get a court order to have the baby autopsied. But most of all he needed to get away from the sound of dueling banjos playing in his head. Besides, he couldn't stand the way he smelled any more, and he had to admit, even Scully was beginning to give off a faint, and slightly, unfeminine odor. Not that he would ever mention *that* to her.

FBI Headquarters X-Files Basement Office
Three Days Later

Scully opened the door to their office and crossed to her desk with papers and files in her hands. Mulder eyed her all the way. He knew she had the results they had been waiting for from the lab.

"It's not good, Mulder," she started out slowly. For a brief moment Mulder wondered if she meant not good for his theory about the human-alien hybrid, or not good for her theory of disbelief.

Her face already said it all, though. Still, he raised his eyebrows questioningly when she sat down and turned to face him.

"First of all, when Recovery Operations followed our map back to the clearing site, not only did they not find a dead, caged Agent Creighton, there wasn't even a still in the area; just a place where a campfire had previously been made. The area Ranger says it has always been just a campground. He swears there has never been any stills in his patrol area.

Mulder nodded his head. He had expected as much. Evidence frequently disappeared at the most inopportune times in his life's experience. At least Scully had been a witness to most of what he had reported; so there was collaboration.

Scully continued, "Second, when Luke and Sarah were confronted about shooting at us and handcuffing us together, they vehemently stuck to their story of not having seen any strangers in their area for at least a month, which also covered them not seeing Agent Creighton.

Mulder nodded his head. Again, nothing less than expected. The FBI was still going to press charges for their assault on government agents, and possession of government property. The lawyers would have to fight over the fine print since Mulder and Scully never actually identified themselves as government agents. And he was pretty sure Luke and Sarah's lawyers would argue that the government property in their possession was simply something they found the woods.

"The baby?" Mulder prompted.

Scully sighed. She really hated being the stick that burst Mulder's fragile bubbles. "When the agents approached the family about the stillborn child, Herb and Mazy Woodall not only vehemently denied a child's death, but that she had even been pregnant. There was no obvious burial site in the vicinity to exhume and thereby refute their statement."

Mulder momentarily wondered if the alien health potion would be able to *heal* Scully's sutures from the cesarean. But he kept silent on the issue. What really mattered hadn't been mentioned yet.

Scully continued, "Of course, Creighton's gun was no where to be found at that fork in the woods where Herb and I left it."

"Of course," Mulder acknowledged.

"Actually, other than our eyewitness accounts, there isn't one shred of evidence that Agent Frank Creighton was ever there in those woods."

There Scully stopped her recitation and cast her eyes downward. Mulder easily surmised the only bad news left was the information contained in the files she held: the lab reports.

"And the lab reports?" he voiced the unnecessary question.

Scully flicked her eyes upward to face him honestly, and leaned forward in her chair, "I'm sorry, Mulder," she began. "I know you were counting on the lab tests to prove extra-terrestrial components."

Mulder didn't wait for her to finish. He turned his chair back toward his desk and opened a file that he had no intention of reading at that moment. Scully continued, none the less. He had to be told some time.

"There was nothing but natural, earth based substances. It wasn't even grain alcohol they were making. Actually, the ingredients don't really make up a specific known concoction at all. It was just a bunch of herbs and ingredients, sort of like a soup." She gently placed the file she had been holding on top of the file he was pretending to peruse. "It's all there for you to read and see for yourself."

Mulder gave up his pretense of reading, "There wasn't even *one* unusual result from the tests?" He almost whined, unwilling to concede to science so easily what his mind knew but couldn't prove.

"What about Creighton's story?"

Scully's eyes softened, "Mulder, that's just what it was, a story." She stood beside Mulder's desk. "He was hurt, probably hallucinating after being out there several days with no food or water, he could have been drugged, Mulder we just don't know since we don't have his body to autopsy. It's just not proof," she tried to say as softly as possible.

"Damn it, Scully, dying agents just do not make up stories." In frustration he slapped his hand down on the very reports that disproved his statement. "What about the lack of births there, Scully? What about that baby you delivered? Do you think those are all coincidences? Or just normal events for the area? What are the odds on that? A hell of a sight higher than what Agent Creighton is purporting, I'll wager!"

Scully took a deep breath and turned away to resume her seat. She didn't have the answers to his questions, and she believed the answers would never be forthcoming.

Hollow Log Community West Virginia
Later that Evening

It was almost midnight. Fifty to sixty people were standing in a clearing several miles from where Mulder and Scully had found Agent Creighton. Herb and Mazy were there. So were Sarah, Luke and their father. In fact, the entire Hollow Log Community was gathered in that clearing. They were arranged in two concentric circles so they would all fit in the space, and they were holding hands. The circle was bathed in a light from above.

In the center of the clearing was what appeared to be a still. Licking the bottom of a rocket shaped piece of metal was a roaring fire. And a large empty bucket sat to one side.

The people watched as the liquid inside heated up. They knew steam was building and traveling through the copper tubing only for it to be cooled on it's travels to the large cauldron. They could see the evidence of their thoughts as a substance dripped from the far end of the copper into the open pot.

The light from above fully exposed the smile on each human face and revealed eyes that shown unnaturally bright. Suddenly as if a switch had been thrown, the unearthly light from above disappeared.

A man released his grip on his fellow watchers. He moved a wooden crate over to the pot. Stooping to pick up a glass jar, he stepped onto the crate and dipped the jar into the liquid substance that was now quickly filling the pot.

He turned to face the crowd, spotted a pregnant woman and held the jar out to her. Eagerly she reached for it and began to drink.

The End

End notes: OK. Now is the time when you let me know that you had fun reading this story (if you did), how it amused you (if it did), scared you (if it did), or was a big waste of time for you (hopefully not!). :o) Response is lovingly read and kept at JEhrat2@aol.com

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