Title: Fantome: The Curious Case of the Bureau Ghost
Summary: Scully's strange waking visions lead Mulder, Skinner, TLG and many more in pursuit of the semi- legendary "Bureau Ghost," a mysterious evil genius with a special interest in Dana Scully. All this, and Scully gets her own office too. Just who is that masked man, anyway?
Note: "Schlockfic?" This began when I first read that CC would be saluting "Frankenstein." It is an attempt to capture both the goofiness and suspense of another classic ghost story. I attempted to imitate a bit of the detective novel, the stage versions, as well as to the campy movies. At first I thought it would be badfic, but it turned into SCHLOCKfic. I had fun figuring out how to fit the characters and plot into an X- File, and I hope you have as much fun watching it all unravel. Many, many thanks to the 'phile pholks who read this first. :- )
Disclaimers: Standard fanfic disclaimers apply in regard to characters and situations created by Chris Carter, and to those of Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Weber. The characters and situations of Gaston Leroux are in the public domain.
Full story is archived (with pictures!), for the moment, at:http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Chamber/3034/
Prologue: In Which We Discover the Strange Delusions of Dana Scully, M.D.
"Oh, pooh!" Dana Katherine Mulder pouted at the drip of mayonnaise on the formica counter. She wiped it up with a a super- absorbant paper towel and then finished making the white- bread- and- bologna sandwich for her beloved husband, Fox William Mulder.
"What is it, darling?" Fox William Mulder strode into the kitchen adjusting his tie. He picked up his hat and his coat from the table where his briefcase lay. "Something the matter, pumpkin butter?" He leaned over to bestow a chaste kiss on his wife's powdered cheek.
"Not at all, fuzzybunny. You'd better hurry or you'll be late for work." She pushed back a strand of her perfect bouffant hairdo.
"What are you and the kids going to do today, sweetie- poo?" He opened the front door, revealing the perfect green square of their lawn. A pink ranch house, just like their own, glowed cheerily across the street.
"Well, I thought I'd clean the house from top to bottom between 9 and 9.30. Then the kids and I might go to the zoo. Which pearls do you think would be better for housecleaning, Fox William, dear? These or the green ones?" She indicated the strand around her neck that matched her immaculate high- heeled shoes and flared white skirt.
"Hmm? Oh, you know I'm no good at those things, cakey- pie. Better ask Susie or Fox Junior." Mulder jammed his hat on his head and lit his pipe. "Well, I'm off. Goodbye, sugarlips." He climbed into their wooden- sided station wagon, started the engine, and backed out of the driveway.
Dana waved as he drove off, noting with slight dismay that the plastic flamingos in the front yard needed adjustment. Then she headed back inside to the children's room.
"Rise and shine, sleepyheads!" On one side of the room, little Susan Samantha sat up, while Fox Junior continued to snore from across the room. Sparky, the Mulder family dog, greeted her with a lazy thump of his Golden Retriever tail.
"Mommy! Mommy!" Susan's red braids were incredibly tidy, just as they always were. "I had a bad dream!!!"
"Did you, cinnamon bun? What was it?" Dana began shaking Fox Junior gently.
"I dreamed there was a BAD MAN in the closet, Mommy. A BAD MAN in a white mask and a black coat."
"That's ridiculous, buttercup." Fox Junior stirred slightly but firmly refused to open his adorable eyes.
"Oh, Mommy, will you please go look?" Susan drew the covers up to her chin and announced firmly, "I'm not getting out of bed until I'm sure."
"Oh, all right." Dana crossed to the closet door. "But really, Susan."
Dana paused as she reached for the door handle. Why were her hands so red? She liked to keep them spotlessly clean, for there were dangerous microbes lurking everywhere. She had read an article about it in the Woman's World Weekly.
Why, they were red with blood! That couldn't be at all sanitary!
Dana held her hands up to her face and turned around.
"Susan? What- - ?"
In Susie's place sat a doll with red yarn hair and a knife planted in its chest.
"Fox Junior?!!!" Dana screamed as she saw the bloody doll where her son had slept a moment before. Even Sparky the Mulder Family Dog had been replaced by a slashed plastic pup. She whirled again to the closet, reaching out with a bloody hand, sobbing as she jerked the door open.
Oddly, some part of her knew what she would find, even as the door swung open and the masked figure stood there in his dark cape. This has happened before, the inner voice told her calmly, clinically, as the figure seized her in an iron grip and her vision slowly went black.....
Chapter I: the Agents and the Psychologist
Scully's head jerked up with a gasp. She let out a long shuddering sigh as the vision faded away.
"I'm...I'm all right. Just trying to catch my breath." Scully looked around the bright academic office,and then down at her hands, still gripping the sides of the chair. She let our another long breath and forced them to relax. *O- kay....*she thought. *Hypnosis over. Get a grip.*
"Take your time. You just described some very disturbing stuff," Dr.
Bernardine Petersen's warm smile was almost enough to ease the rest of Scully's tension. "To the best of your recollection, was this similar to the other hallucinations you've been having?"
"That was pretty typical of what I see during my blackouts." Scully concentrated on keeping her tone even, her voice perfectly normal. "It's like being in some Grade Z horror movie. But the lead actress is always me.
"I dismissed it all as nightmares," Scully continued, "until they began striking me during the daytime. It's been happening at work- - I freeze up, drift off, and no- one around me can communicate with me. All the while, I'm seeing these horrible visions."
Dr. Petersen nodded. "Obviously, I can't make any kind of detailed analysis on the basis of one interview, but...going out on a limb..."
Scully's smile was small and ironic. "Believe me, Dr. Peterson, I have plenty of experience in evaluating 'out on a limb' hypotheses..."
"OK then." The other woman leaned back from her desk. "I'd say someone may deliberately have done this to you- - planted post- hypnotic suggestions which are triggered by some word or action.
Now, the daytime visions occur while you are at work?"
Dana nodded. "Right. And it's really becoming a problem, especially..."
she trailed off, embarrassed. She gave a little uncomfortable laugh.
"Well, the things I see are pretty personal, and they also involve, er..."
"They involve people you work with. Which can be highly embarrassing, I understand. I once had a strange recurring dream about my doctoral advisor- - whew! Did that ever make it hard to face her!...And then there's the consistent figure of the masked man. That's intriguing, as he seems to be the only figure not directly connected to your current life."
*"Intriguing"?*, Scully thought. *That's one way of putting it.
"Intriguing" that sometimes I have waking visions of being married to Mulder and pulling my June Cleaver impression? Or "intriguing" in that I visualize some psychotic figure in a mask who storms in and rips it all apart? I don't know which part of the hallucination is more disturbing.* Dana fidgeted with something in her hands.
"Bern, you have to believe that I'm not he kind of person who spends time fantasizing about my co- workers."
"Look, Dana, for what it's worth, I don't think this is about your fantasies. Mulder sent you to me because he suspected this might have something to do with some research I've been doing, and I think he was right on the money."
"You mean I'm not just a dirty young maid with an overactive imagination?"
Bern laughed. "No, god no! No, I think you're the victim of what I characterize as NIPS, or near- involuntary post- hypnotic suggestion.
Someone has done this to you. From what Mulder tells
me about the characters you guys have investigated, I wouldn't be surprised if this is the result of one of those encounters. Can you think of any who would be interested in that kind of malice? Who would really want to interrupt your life?"
"But that's just the thing, Bern. It's not just a malicious interruption." Dana got up from the chair, pacing as she spoke. "I can't explain it well, but, after one of these visions, when I come clear, I have the most AMAZING hunches. It's as if, while I'm having these horrible dreams, some other part of my mind is working through the problems of the case."
Bern leaned forward. "You mean you actually solve cases without knowing it?"
Scully's smile was sheepish, and she rubbed her forehead. "Well, not exactly solve, but it all comes into place. It's as if some scientific, logical part of my mind keeps working, at a super- fast pace, while another part is swept away in these weird visions."
Bern made more notes and leaned back. "Look, Dana, this is going to take some work. I want you to come back to the university, soon, and I'll run some tests, and do some more work with this. We'll try to find out what's going on and how to deal with it.
"Normal hypnosis is limited, despite what movies and mythology have made of it, but if I'm right, somebody has figured a way round that, and is practicing on you. For all we know, the guy who did this to you is rotting in federal prison, and has just left this stuff in your head as a thank- you note.
"If you have another episode, try to remember what happens just before you go into the vision. That will help me figure out the trigger, which, hopefully, we can then remove."
"Ok." Scully stood to go.
"Oh, and if you're worried, it seems you normally don't speak or reveal what's going on during the trances. Your secret is, of course, safe with me. Now, do try to remember what happens just before your trances.
Promise me you'll try."
"I will. And thanks again." Dana turned the handle and walked out into the fluorescent- lit hall.
Mulder was waiting for her, looking concerned and faintly ridiculous sitting at a wooden student desk propped next to the wall.
"Hey." He started up, got caught in the arm of the desk, and finally extracted himself.
"Hi," she said, ignoring the spectacle. "Been waiting long?"
He was studiedly casual. "No, not long. Well, I *did* have a chance to read War and Peace, but then I've always wanted to do that..." He looked at her closely. "Good news, Scully?"
"I'm not crazy, if that's what you want to know."
"Hah! Well, I'll keep working on that." Mulder held the door as they walked into the winter sunshine. "No, I mean, did Dr. Petersen have any ideas as to why...."
"As to why *I'm* becoming the spooky one? Why I'm the one who spaces out and then comes to with the perfect case solution? Why I seem to be steadily losing my marbles?" Dana's voice cracked and her face twisted.
She stopped in midstride, and took another long deep breath.
"I'm- - - sorry, Mulder, I just feel a little- - - overwhelmed..."
He reached out a tentative hand to her shoulder. "It's OK, Scully.
Believe me, I know what its like to feel like you're spinning out of control..."He squeezed her shoulder, gently, and then turned away, resuming to his flip tone. "Besides, pardner, I'm the spooky one, and don't you forget it! It ain't that easy to muscle into my territory..."
Chapter II: Not Just Another Cool Keychain
Scully looked with a vague sense of relief at the pile of paperwork on her desk. Something completely and utterly normal, she mused. How refreshing. She settled down at her desk, and had just dived into the first stack when the door opened. Without looking up, she said, "Mulder, you know, the POINT of having separate offices was so we wouldn't be breathing own each others' necks all the time..."
"I know, I know," he replied. "But I just wanted to ask your opinion on this file. You're not busy are...?" He trailed off as she silently indicated the stack of papers. "OK, so you are busy. But is it Busy- Busy, or 'please interrupt be because this is REEEAL boring' busy?"
Dana shook her head. "You win, Mulder. Have a seat."
He sat gingerly on the folding chair across from her desk and handed her the file. As she perused it, he pondered his surroundings. Dana's new office was next door to his, and its decor bespoke its origins as a storage room. Stacks of files waited in boxes for a permanent home. Dana had brought in a few pictures, but the place still felt more like a storage space than a work space. One wall was simply a fresh sheet of plasterboard still waiting for a coat of paint.
Mulder got up and wandered over to the shelf where Scully had placed a row of photographs at precise angles. A wedding picture that looked like her parents. Mulder had never met Scully's father, but the woman was unmistakably Margaret Scully. Childhood pictures with her brothers. A picture of Melissa and Scully together. And an empty silver frame.
Mulder picked it up. It was engraved with a floral pattern and an inscription:
"Fate links thee to me forever and a day"
"Hey, Scully- - - "
"Come on, Mulder, let me finish if you really want my opinion!" She was holding the last page. "Ok- - - hmmm, not as spectacular as most of your cases- - what did you want to say about it?"
"It was about your picture frame, Scully."
"No, I mean it. Where did you get it?"
She rolled her eyes. "As if you didn't know very well. I'm sorry I haven't found a picture to go in it yet, Mulder, but nothing quite seemed to fit- - - "
"Are you saying I gave you this, Scully?"
"Come on, Mulder. It's been 2 months since the December secret gift exchange. I think it's safe to admit it now, Mulder." She gave him a lopsided grin. "Now, about this file- - "
"No, wait, Scully. I didn't give this to you. I had Danny for my secret gift draw...I hope he enjoyed the Sports Illustrated Football phone.
Those can be hard to come by."
"What are you saying, Mulder? Somebody else gave me a frame with that inscription? I assumed that you- - " She broke off. Of course it had been Mulder. Just another of his jokes to play innocent.
"Anyway. About this file. The so- called 'Bureau Ghost.'"
"What do you think? Any of your, uh *special* insights?"
"Hardly. I can't see that this stuff qualifies as an X- File." She gestured toward the file open on her desk. "Lights on at odd times, missing office equipment, a falling light fixture, and a bunch of rumours about the FBI building. Sounds like careless employees, pilfering, and a convenient cover story to me. Come on, Mulder, we don't do inventory cases."
"Skinner seems to disagree. He wants us to check out the 'Bureau Ghost.' Whoooooo!" He scooped up the files from her desk. "We meet him tomorrow at 10 for an update briefing. See ya then. I gotta go brush up my spooky- skills."
Chapter III: Dr. Scully: Spooky?
Scully pushed the last of her paperwork away and stood, stretching. It felt good to be able to put the stuff on her desk away, even if it had taken longer than she had expected.
Absently, she moved to the shelf and picked up the silver frame Mulder had played with earlier.
It was truly a beautiful piece of work, and she had been a little surprised that Mulder would pick such an exquisite gift. It sure beat the heck out of the keychain he had bought her on that eventful night a year ago. And she liked the quote, reminding her of Mulder's belief in their past lives. She wasn't sure if she fully agreed with him on that score, but it was a nice thought. She wished she could recall the source. Some opera.
She looked at her watch and went back to her desk. It was well past five, but Scully was accustomed to working late. She pulled out a folder that Mulder had dropped off with her yesterday. It was truly a puzzling case, one that involved a reported alien sighting, in Pittsburgh of all places. Scully read over the file, trying to piece it all together.
There had to be some kind of logical theory as to why perfectly sane people would swear to seeing a green- skinned woman in a suburban deli.
Scully took out a fresh pencil to make her notes. She had always been good at medical diagnosis, piecing together a composite picture from disparate bits of information, but she surprised herself with how much she had grown to enjoy putting those same skills to work in a law- enforcement setting.
And lately...well, lately it seemed she had clearer and clearer flashes of insight. It was, she pondered, as if her mind was slowly being trained to use all of those fabled "unused" brain cells. It made her a little uncomfortable. For one thing, she got the feeling that Mulder thought she was getting to be, well, "spooky."
For another, the increased deductive abilities seemed to be directly connected to the bizarre daytime dreams and nightmares. Scully frowned as she recalled the visions. The pictures had faded in her memory, but the feelings of intense happiness followed by deep revulsion and horror were still far too vivid in her mind.
Scully put her head back down and tried to concentrate on the case at hand. As she did she heard a tap.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Taptaptaptap.
Scully rose again from her desk and surveyed the room. *Really,* she chided herself. *I'm far too jumpy.* She checked her watch again and noted that it as a little past six. Late, but not so late that the building would be empty. The basement was usually quiet, but not silent. Scully walked slowly around the office. The tapping seemed to come from behind the new plasterboard wall. Probably some heating pipes back there. Or something.
She turned again to her bookshelf and the row of pictures. She liked having the friendly faces in her still- bare office, although she sometimes wondered if having so many looked unprofessional. *Ah, to heck with it,* she thought. She picked up the picture of her parents.
*To HELL with it,* she corrected. Dad would have said if you were going to swear, you should at least do it right.
She smiled as she thought of her father and all the things he taught her to "do right," swearing not the least of them. He wouldn't have been surprised by her expanding facilities for investigation. He had an amazing mind himself for orderly proceedings, and had always encouraged her to think her way through everything that blocked her path. "There's always plan B," he would assure her when she went to him claiming to have found an unsurmountable difficulty blocking her from achieving her goal. "There's even a plan B for plan B." And sure enough, he was usually right.
* Maybe it's Dad helping me with these investigations,* Scully thought.
It was a comforting speculation.But why the nightmares?
There was another tap, which Scully purposefully ignored.
Scully put down the photograph and picked up the empty silver frame once more. Since Mulder had pointed it out she couldn't help but think that she really did need to find a photograph for it. Pretending not to recognize it was probably his way of telling her that. Smiling, she read the inscription to herself:
"Fate links me to thee forever and a day!"
Scully's head snapped up as the voice echoed through her head. Where was that coming from? And voiced by whom? *I must be imagining things,* she decided, still holding the frame. Amazed, she saw that her hand was shaking. Just imagining things, she decided.
"Fate links thee to me forever and a day!" The frame dropped to the floor as Scully felt herself drifting into the familiar trance. The voice was louder now, crooning almost in her ear. She opened her mouth to scream a protest, but instead only found herself repeating: "Fate links thee to me forever and a day!"
Chapter IV: A Dinner Deferred!
Frowning, Holly tapped at Scully's office door again. it wasn't like Dana to forget things, even if she did tend to put work ahead of her personal life. If Dana had said they would meet at 6.30 to get some dinner, then Dana meant it. So when she didn't show up at the cafe by 7, something was wrong. Holly checked her watch. It was now almost 7:20. What was going on with Dana? Was she talking to someone else in there?
Irritated into bad manners, Holly put her head to the door to listen.
She could hear Dana speaking, in a low and singsong voice hardly recognizable as belonging to the no- nonsense agent. The other voice was even harder to discern: hollow and muffled, it was impossible to decipher its words. Was she talking to herself?
"Dana?" Holly called. She was now concerned. Dana had mentioned that her life was getting complicated of late. Was she in some kind of trouble? And who was causing it?
Holly decided to open the door a crack. "Dana?" she called, torn between concern and her natural shyness.
"Holly?" Dana broke off in the midst of her strange muttering and continued in her normal voice. "Is that you? Wha- What time is it?"
Holly opened the door fully and entered the office. Dana sat in a chair in the middle of the room. It was dark except for the light of the desk lamp, but even so, Holly cold see that Agent Scully was completely alone.
"Dana, are you okay? Were you talking to somebody? I'm sorry to break in on you, but when you didn't show up for dinner, I thought maybe something was wrong..."
"Oh my god, is it that late?" Scully's eyes widened as she consulted her watch. "I didn't realize...I was just working on a case, and I..I guess I lost track of time..." Scully trailed off. She looked ghostly pale, and her hands trembled as she pushed her hair away from her forehead. Slowly she stood up, clutching the file she had been holding. "I'm so sorry, Holly..."
"Oh, no problem, Dana." Privately, Holly decided that whatever it was Dana had been doing, she didn't want to intrude. Obviously something was upsetting her. Maybe she would open up over some food. "Um..are you ready to go? We could still grab a burger somewhere."
"Yes...." The colour was slowly returning to Scully's face. She dropped the file carefully on her desk "Yes, that would be nice. Just let me grab a pad of paper. I have some thoughts on a case I've been working on..."
Holly watched as Scully gathered her things and put on her coat. Time for a little levity, she thought as Scully shut the door and they walked down the long hallway. "I like your office, Dana, but I'm surprised you have the guts to work down here in the basement."
"Why?" asked Scully. She smiled and tried to match Holly's joking tone.
"Is it working down here that made Mulder so... spooky?"
"Well, you never know. I mean, close proximity to the Bureau Ghost might do that to a person..." They stepped into the elevator. "So, Burger King or McDonald's? It's your call."
"What did you say?" Scully grabbed Holly's arm.
"I said, Burger King or McDonald's- - - Dana, that hurts! We can make it Long John Silver's if you really want..."
"No, before that." The elevator's ding in the silent building announced that they had reached their destination. "How do you know about the Bureau Ghost?"
"Everybody knows about the Bureau Ghost- - ow- - Dana!"
"Sorry." Scully loosened her grip on Holly as they stepped out onto the main floor. "It just surprised me. I didn't know that very many people had heard of the alleged haunting."
"Where in the world have you been hiding? Who hasn't heard of the Bureau Ghost? The lights on late at night, the missing furniture? And all those rumours about Cellar B."
"Cellar B? Fill me in, Holly. I guess I'm not as well- informed in Bureau Lore as you are."
Holly laughed. "Oh, you know, when I was working in records I got to know a people all over the bureau. It's amazing how bits and pieces of old information can come together to make up a story like the Bureau Ghost.
"Cellar B, for example. The story's been around forever that the Bureau has loads of "special" equipment laying about somewhere- - - you know, advanced spy equipment, experimental devices. James Bond stuff."
Scully looked more distressed than ever. "And this is stored in the basement?"
"Well, in so- called 'Cellar B.' No- one knows where exactly Cellar B is, of course. Probably below the basement, if anything.It's just a story, Dana," she added, in deference to Scully's obvious agitation. "Everyone knows that there are tunnels, new and old, all over the capitol region.
The Bureau probably connects to some old ones that we don't know about.
But that doesn't mean there really such a thing as Cellar B. Or the Bureau Ghost!"
"I'm not so sure..."Scully muttered as they neared the door.
Holly laughed again.
"Oh, now I know you're trying to pull my leg. You? Believe in the Bureau Ghost? Stories like that can't come true. You know as well as I do that somebody dreamed up the Bureau Ghost in order to cover up all the pencils that go missing around here, and it just took off from there.
It's probably the guys down in requisitions who are just trying to have an excuse for the filing cabinets that go missing." Holly frowned.
"Although I did think it was kind of tasteless to blame that security guard's death last month on the Bureau Ghost....Dana? Are you all right?
Do you have a fever or something?"
"No, I- - I'm fine. Let's just get out of here." Scully held the door for Holly. "I didn't realize anyone had linked the Ghost to the murder...I thought he was supposed to be a friendly phantom..." Scully glanced behind her. Despite the glare of the security lights, there were so many shadows. She could easily imagine that one had separated itself from the others and was following her out the door.
"Oh, you hear all kinds of things about the Bureau Ghost. The whole rumour has really taken off in the last couple of months. Some people say he has no face at all. Some people say he dresses all in white; others, all in black. Some say he's dangerous and leaves little traps for new agents. Other say he does helpful little things for them...Dana?"
Scully had stopped short. "What kind of helpful things, Holly?"
"Dana, I'm taking you home and putting you to bed with a bowl of soup.
You look like you're about to faint."
"*What kind of helpful things, Holly?*" Scully grabbed Holly's arm again, more gently this time, but with firmness.
"Uh...oh they say all kinds of things. You can't believe any of them.
Sometimes it's a profile. Sometimes some kind of brilliant theory.
Sometimes it's suggestions on processing evidence. Sometimes it's other stuff...it's just a JOKE, Dana. They're just JOKING about it....Dana?"
"Holly, it's no joke. I think...oh, this is crazy. I am crazy. I do need to go to bed. Or something." She looked Holly straight in the eyes. "I think I've heard the Bureau Ghost. I've heard something, something down there in my new office. Or beneath my office, or behind the walls.
Sometimes it's in my head, Holly. I see it and hear it...him..." She dropped Holly's arm and rubbed her head again. "Oh god, now I'm REALLY getting 'spooky.'"
"Dana, I don't understand, but I want to help. Tell me about it."
"I can't, Holly. I- - I have to think. I need to be alone." Dana shook her head. "This just doesn't make any sense. There HAS to be some rational explanation...I'm sorry Holly. We'll do dinner some other time. I just need to THINK..."
"OK, Dana," Holly answered, uncertain. 'If that's what you want...."
Scully was already striding away.
Chapter V: A Discovery at the Old Burying Ground
"Well, thanks for all your help. I really appreciate it." Mulder accepted the stack of papers from his companion.
"No problem, Mulder, I love doing this stuff." Portia Madden smiled back at him. "And remember, if you ever need to call on my dazzling array of professional skills, I make a fair lawyer in addition to my qualifications as an amateur ghost chaser."
He laughed into the brisk night as they walked down the street.
"Yeah, but I don't WANT to HAVE to use your professional skills, Portia.
Ghosts are way less scary than legal briefs."
"Whichever...You know Mulder, I never knew you to take such an interest in local folklore. I thought you preferred those
smack- dab- in- the- middle- of- nowhere kind of unexplained appearances."
"I do, I do, but they were all out of those at the Psychic Friends Warehouse," he deadpanned as they waited for the light to change.
"Anyway, this project was kind of foisted upon me. Somebody thinks the Bureau Ghost is important."
"Ah, well, I won't ask whom, as I'm sure it's a matter of national security..."
Mulder nodded solemnly as they crossed the street. "Isn't it always?..."
"Seriously, Mulder. The thing about the Bureau Ghost stuff I've given you is that it ISN'T very old. It's more of an urban myth than a true ghostlore. No specific personage is attatched to the story, as is so common here in Washington. You know, no J. Edgar Hoover, no Lincoln, no Elvis. And it's only very recently that I can find actual incidents being attributed to the Ghost- - - pervious references are clearly humorous and merely incidental. The Cellar B material is of longer pedigree, but again the connection to the Bureau Ghost is quite recent- - - " Portia broke off as Mulder threw out an arm to stop her.
"What is it?"
"I think it's- - - - Scully!" He broke away from Portia and sprinted towards the iron railing surrounding the cemetery that fronted on the sidewalk.
The pale figure did not turn but continued her walk through the rows of tombstones.
"Are you sure it's her, Mulder? What is she doing here?" Portia squinted at the diminutive shape passing before them with her long black coat flapping quietly in the breeze.
"I don't know- - - Scully!" Mulder began to climb over the iron fence.
"Mulder! Are you out of your head?" hissed Portia.
"Per usual," he grunted as he landed on the other side. "Scully!" His feet crunched on the gravel path as he dashed to catch up with her. She did not turn or slow her movements, but continued to stare straight ahead. In her hands was a piece of paper, well- worn and a little crumpled. Catching up to her, Mulder grabbed her hands.
"Jesus, Scully, you're like ice...Scully!" She turned to face him. Her eyes were blank.
"Scully!" he repeated, his voice frantic. She blinked suddenly,focusing upon him as if he had appeared out of thin air.
"M- mulder?" She turned her head slowly to look about her as if her surroundings were a revelation. "What are you doing here?"
"I was about to ask you the same question. What are you doing walking alone in a graveyard at night?"
"Is it late?"
"It's nine o'clock, Scully."
"I needed to think...I like it here, Mulder. It reminds me of Dad. He used to bring me here sometimes for a walk, when he was stationed at Norfolk. It was so peaceful...I wanted to clear my
head. I needed to work some things out...I just...." She trailed off, looking at the paper in her hands.
"Scully, I'm worried about you, ok?" Mulder put a tentative arm around her shoulders and tried a joke. "You're supposed to INVESTIGATE the Bureau Ghost, not BECOME it." She pulled away with a gasp. He voice was a piercing hiss that ripped through the cold air.
"What did you say?"
"I said....Scully, you're shaking."
"What do you know about the Bureau Ghost?"
"Scully, we're investigating the Ghost...Scully?" Tears were streaming down her pale face. "Scully?"
"I'm fine, Mulder." She turned her face away, and fished in her coat pocket, producing a crumpled tissue. It was woefully inadequate for the task at hand. "It's just- - - Mulder, I'm going to tell you something crazy."
"Well, crazy I can do." He desperately wished he had a handkerchief to offer her.
"I think I've seen the Bureau Ghost."
"SEEN him? You didn't even think he existed this afternoon!"
"I- - know, Mulder, but, well...it's complicated." She took a long shuddering breath. "These visions I have, Mulder, these horrifying visions, and then the flashes of insight. I think it's- - - I think it's my father."
"It all makes sense, Mulder. Or, a KIND of sense. Think about it. My father always tried to give me the gift of insight, of deduction, of being able to work through anything. Anything, Mulder." She blew her nose and finally gave up the handkerchief, stuffing it back into the depths of her coat pocket. "And I've seen him before. I've seen him before, and I can't explain why or how. I saw him when he died, Mulder. And I saw him when *I* almost died. My father has not left me, Mulder. And I think he's trying to help me once again."
"But Scully..." Mulder trailed off. How to put it? "Why should your father put you through the discomfort you seem to experience in your trances? And...I hate to say it Scully, but what the hell would your father want with missing filing cabinets?"
Scully gave him a very small smile. "Well, maybe he has a lot of paperwork wherever he is..."
"I see you're feeling better."
"I think that part is just rumour, Mulder. I mean, really, missing office equipment? But I'm serious about my hallucinations. Look, Mulder." She pulled a notepad from the inside pocket of her coat.
"Read." He squinted at it in the light of the moon.
"A theory on that case we were working on before Skinner dropped the new one on us? Hmmm..." He skimmed the page. "My god, Scully, it's brilliant. The signs were all there. The modus operandi of the deaths, the black- cancer- like symptoms. And putting it together with the disappearance of the Russian Yutnick Space Station, and... it all comes together...why didn't I see the connection?...God, yes!" His looked up at her in amazement. "You think Alex Krycek is involved in this case? Back from Russia and operating in the D.C. area?"
"Yes. And I don't know how I made all the connections exactly, but there it is. Another pulling together of a cases that made no sense to connect upon first examining them."
"You think your father is making you psychic, Scully?"
She shook her head violently. "No. Not psychic. It's intuition. Except it's not...I can always show how things connect...but the connections are completely unexpected."
"What's the difference, Scully? You're telling me you think a ghost is giving you clues and you're splitting hairs between psychic powers and intuition?"
"But that's just the thing, Mulder. Intuition is nothing more than our subconscious mind working through matters and then bringing those connections to our conscious mind. It's..it's like math class.
Intuition is getting the right answers, but not showing your work." She touched the notepad Mulder was holding. "This is like being able to show my work...sort of. I can't always remember all the details of how I make the connections, but they're always there. I think my father is helping me, somehow, freeing me to think as I've never thought before."
Mulder frowned. "That still doesn't explain why the trances should be an unpleasant experience for you. You've never told me about them, but I gather you see some things you don't want to..." He trailed off, uncertain. Even after seeing Dr. Petersen, Scully hadn't told him what in the trances made her so uncomfortable. He found it hard to imagine what could shake up Scully and reduce her to the panicky breathing, the incoherent screaming, and the wide- eyed horror that accompanied the end of one of her trances.
"Mulder, I- - - ," Scully put he head down awkwardly. "Look, they're very- - personal. Let's just say I find myself in a future, a cartoon future that's very happy. Extremely happy. And then it's interrupted, horribly, violently, by a dark figure who does- - terrible things." She closed her eyes.
"And why would your father want to do this to you, Scully?"
"I don't know. I- - don't think that's him. I think that part is me."
"Yes. I think- - - well, you know, when my father died, I still had a lot of unresolved feelings about him, about me, about whether he loved me, whether he approved. You remember what Boggs was able to do to me with that."
"Well, maybe it's getting mixed up, somehow. I want to accept this gift from my father, but I'm afraid of what he would think about me, about my visions of happiness, about..." She shook her head. "Never mind."
"What are they about, Scully? What is it that you think your father would hate so much?" He grabbed her hands again. "Dammit, Dana. I want to help." She was crying again as she turned her head away. "Please let me help."
"It's you, Mulder." her voice was small and miserable. "It's visions about you. It's always dreamlike, a little strange, a little disjointed.
But it's always you."
"Why, Scully, I..."his voice broke on the wisecrack. He was still holding her hands. "I...don't know what to say..." They stared at each other for a long moment. Then she was disentangling her hands and turning away.
"There's nothing to say Mulder. It's just something I'm dredging up from somewhere. And it's always in some completely ridiculous scenario, of course." Her voice was becoming drier and more distant as she spoke.
"Anyway. It's always followed by this awful vision of blood everywhere, some dark, murderous figure, who breaks in and kills everything I care for. Look, I know I have a lot of...issues...with my father. With authority. With a lot of things. Maybe this is all my mind's way of playing out those troubles. And it all comes together somehow when my father is trying to help me. It's my fault that this is all so painful, Mulder. I know that must be it."
He searched her face, but she was all business again, the logical Scully who was happiest when considering a problem and formulating a solution.
The moment of closeness had passed.
"But what did Dr. Petersen say about all this?"
"Well, I hadn't even connected this to the Bureau Ghost when I went to see her. She had some idea about involuntary hypnosis..."
"Yeah, that's a theory she's working on. Pretty exciting, really. The theory has always been that it was impossible to use hypnosis to get people to do things they didn't want to. But what if you could use hypnosis another way? What if you could trick people into doing what you wanted them to, by mixing them up, by offering suggestions as to what they liked and disliked? It would be one hell of a mind- fuck."
"Well, it's interesting, if implausible. But I really think this is something different..." There was a rustling and Scully broke off as Portia appeared from around the corner of a monument.
"Portia! I'm sorry, I forgot about you..."
"No problem, Mulder. You guys looked like you could use the privacy. But it's getting COLD, folks. And later. And darker. And our criminal trespass is getting more criminal by the minute."
"Ah, I knew you'd find a way to get me as a client...Ready to go, Scully?" There was a flapping of wings overhead and Scully glanced up. A blackbird settled on a tree overhead.
"Yeah. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting, Portia. I didn't realize Mulder had abandoned you."
"Like I said, no problem. Oh, here." Portia stooped to the ground to retrieve something that gleamed palely in the moonlight. "Did you drop this?"
"Oh, thank god you picked that up." Scully gratefully retrieved it.
"It's a letter one of my Dad's old Navy buddies wrote to me after he died. Captain Powell knew him about as well as anybody. It's really beautiful. I found it again today." She smiled at the paper. "He even quotes that opera that you used, Mulder. It's from Pedicini's 'Romeo and Juliet'."
"That *I* quoted, Scully?"
She smiled at him. "At least you're consistent in your plausible denial, Mulder. All of Santa's elves should be so good. The quote on the frame.
Dad used to love that opera. I guess that's why Captain Powell used it."
They had reached the gateway, bolted, of course. The blackbird had followed them, and was settling on a stone mausoleum as Portia asked"What is this quote, anyway?"
"Oh, you'd probably know it if you heard it sung properly," Scully replied. The blackbird cawed loudly, and Scully started.
"So, sing it," offered Portia as she hauled herself over the gate.
"Oof!- Quietly, mind you."
"Oh, it sounds something like this:" Mulder had offered Scully his hand as a boost over the gate, and she paused, gripping his hand. In a husky contralto she offered- - -
"Fate links thee to me forever and a day- - "
A flash of light cut Scully short in mid tone. With a violent rumble, she and Mulder were thrown back against the iron bars.
"Wha- - - ?" Mulder was holding Scully to him as if he were afraid she would fly away.
"Are you guys all right? What was that?" Portia was frantic on the other side of the fence. Neither of them answered her. They were too busy staring at the two halves of the mausoleum, rent in two by the freak blast of lightning.
Overhead, the blackbird flew away.
Chapter VI: In Skinner's Office
"Mulder, Scully. Have a seat." He looked more closely at the two agents fidgeting before him. "You two look like hell. Something going on that I should know about?"
"No, sir," replied before Scully could say anything. "Just putting in a late night doing the Bureau's bidding." Not to mention being nearly being struck by lightning, and trying to convince his partner that it wasn't a direct communication from her dead father.
"Very well." Skinner stood and looked out the window. "I suppose you think I'm crazy," he continued, not looking at them.
"Crazy, sir?" Scully answered. "For asking us to investigate the Bureau Ghost? Not at all."
"I'm glad to hear you say that, Agent Scully." Skinner sounded more surprised than glad. "I wouldn't have thought this was up your alley."
"Actually- - "
"ACTUALLY," Mulder cut her off. "Scully and I have been working on the other case you'd assigned us, sir, and we've some up with some interesting links to another case- - - "
"I'm not interested, Agent Mulder."
"- - and we think that Agent Krycek may be involved," Mulder finished desperately.
"Krycek?" Skinner frowned. "OK. I'm interested. But first, the Bureau Ghost."
"I have a theory, sir," Scully began, but Skinner put up his hand.
"Wait. I have some new information to consider before you make any commitments. I received this videotape yesterday," he said, picking up a dark rectangle from his desk. "As you know, the Bureau Ghost was a joke around here. At least until the security guard was murdered. Then Inventory started to get serious about the so- called pilfering. Some bean- counter started to track down some of the requisitions forms. He came up with over a hundred requisitions in the last month from someone calling himself B.G."
"I once knew a woman named...oh," Mulder broke off in the middle of his quip. "B.G...Bureau Ghost."
"Requisitions for what, sir?" Scully's voice was even, but Mulder sensed her distress. Her theory about the ghosts' identity depended largely on the missing items turning out to be mere rumour.
"For everything. And expense vouchers from all over the city. You name it, if you can get it on a Bureau chit, then our boy has been doing it.
And that's just the stuff he had to fill out forms for."
Skinner hesitated just a moment. "The person...or persons...may be pilfering certain....experimental equipment."
"Cellar B." Scully's eyes were wide. "So it exists."
"The equipment exists, certainly. That's...all I can tell you about it.
Let's just say that there is reason to believe some of it has gone missing. And my interest in the matter has been noticed as well, which also concerns me."
"Noticed by whom?" Instead of answering Mulder's question, Skinner put the videotape in the machine by his desk.
An all- too- familiar face filled the screen, framed by wispy smoke.
"It has come to my attention that you have cut off all requisitions by B.G." His tone was mild, off- hand almost. But even on videotape, the trembling of his hands was evident as he lit a new cigarette. "I advise against this. As a friend."
"With friends like that, who needs the I.R.S?" muttered Mulder darkly.
The smoking man took a deep drag from the cigarette and exhaled slowly, as if to calm himself. "However, I advise you, for your own sake, to turn your energies elsewhere. The choice is yours, but I think you will find it...unpleasant...should you not let matters stand as they are." He smiled. It was almost more menacing than his frown. "I trust you'll make the right decision." The videotape abruptly blinked off into a field of electronic snow.
"What was that all about?" Mulder asked. He glanced over at Scully. She was silent, but her frown spoke volumes.
"I don't know." Skinner flipped off the television and returned to his desk. "But the interest of this particular player opens up a whole new set of interests. And the problem is- - - " he hesitated. "Well, let me hear your theories before I tell you about the problem."
"I...had...a theory, Sir." Scully's eyes glittered, but Mulder couldn't see any tears. Her back was ramrod- straight and her knees were pressed firmly together. She was the picture of conscious control, but Mulder had just an inkling of what all this was costing her. "But I think it may be rendered somewhat inadequate by the things you have just shown us."
Skinner frowned. "Well, that's a pity, Agent Scully. Because I'm afraid I have to take you off this case."
"What?" Scully and Mulder's tones mingled in astonished counterpoint.
"Agent Scully, as I reviewed the requisitions and other papers associated with this case, it became clear that "B.G." has a particular interest in the welfare of one of our agents. That agent is you."
Skinner picked up a piece of paper from the stack on his desk.
"First- - three months ago. A requisition for a desk. For one D. Scully. A work order for a new office. Specifically, a basement office. For D.
Scully. A promotion evaluation report, including a detailed and glowing description of the work you've putting on your last five cases. Want to guess who is being praised in this report?"
Scully's shock was evident. "Sir, I- - " She broke off in confusion.
"Agent Scully, I want to help you. But with your name all over this case- - - it doesn't look good." Skinner leaned forward towards Scully. He seemed to dwindle, as he spoke in a softer tone. "Dana. You know I want to help you. But it's not about what I want. There are too any people involved in this."
"Sir, Agent Scully proposed a theory to me yesterday- - - "
"No, Mulder," Scully said in a low voice.
"Dana, I have to tell him."
"It's not your decision, Mulder." She stared her partner down.
"Fine, Have it your way." Mulder exploded out of his chair and crossed the room, turning away from Scully and Skinner.
"Well, Agent Scully? I'm waiting."
"Yesterday, I proposed a theory to Agent Mulder about the Bureau Ghost.
I now see it is invalid, but the circumstances which led me to make the decision may still be of interest."
Skinner got up and crossed to the chair that Mulder had been occupying.
"Agent Scully...Dana..." He sat and leaned forward, his voice softening.
"I know it may not be easy for you to confide in me, but...I need you to tell me what you suspect, or think about the Bureau Ghost. It's obvious that he has an interest in you.Whoever he may be," Skinner added quickly.
Scully dropped her eyes before his intense gaze.
"I've been having- - visions, trances, Sir. And what I have seen in them, as well as the fact that they help me produce new and surprisingly accurate theories about our cases had led me to conclude that they are not random occurrences, that someone has been helping me."
"I've been very impressed with your latest work, Dana. But why didn't you tell me about the visions, Dana?" He leaned forward again, as if to touch her, but seemed to change his mind. "Who do you see in your trances, Dana?"
"I'd rather not say, sir." Scully was alarmed by his intensity.
"Sir, Agent Scully has told me about these blackouts and their accompanying effects." Mulder intervened. He could tell that Skinner's intensity was bringing Scully near the breaking point. "We've discussed a variety of theories regarding their source and- - "
"I thought it was my father," Scully told Skinner. "But now I don't know."
"Your father?" Skinner frowned and leaned back. The answer seemed to disappoint him. "What leads to a link between these phenomena?"
Scully opened her mouth to answer but found her mouth widening into a scream as mocking laughter filed the air and the familiar sensations began taking over her body.
At that moment, the room was plunged into darkness.
Chapter VII: A Note From the Ghost!
"I said I wanted them here now!" Walter Skinner snarled into the phone.
His office was the scene of mass confusion. Mulder stood amidst a small team of agents who appeared to be doing their best to destroy the room and everything in it. One was systematically ripping up carpet, while another waved an electronic wand over the walls. "Damn!" Skinner slammed the phone back into its cradle.
"What's the matter, sir? Couldn't you get another team down here?"
"No." Skinner eyed the five men who were ripping the room to shreds with an efficiency only a toddler could have matched.
"I was told that someone has decided that I have enough manpower on this case already."
"What?" Mulder was astonished.
"Whoever this B.G. is, or whoever is using the rumour, they obviously know us inside and out. And now they have Agent Scully. Damn! I should have taken her off the case earlier."
"Sir...you don't think there and truth to it, do you? The idea that Scully's father is somehow a part of all this?"
Skinner eyed Mulder carefully, then sighed. "Look, Mulder, I've seen my fair share of things in this life. You know that all too well. A ghost could produce the hallucinations, one supposes. A ghost could somehow work on Scully's mind. A ghost might even kill a man. But a ghost does not need access to experimental equipment. A ghost does not produce requisition orders. It's a funny sort of spectre who expects an expense account."
"Sir, whoever it is...he reaches into Scully's mind. He's devious. But in some way...he feels close to her. He's had a chance to watch her work. He knows her. He knows what she wants: to move up in the bureau, to have an office of her own, to gain professional respect. In some ways...I think he knows her better than I do."
"Better, Agent Mulder? Or as well as?" Skinner's gaze was intense.
"What are you saying, sir? That I kidnapped Agent Scully while simultaneously remaining in the same room? I might ask you the same question."
"I won't accept that kind of insolence, Agent Mulder- - " The anger in Skinner's voice was matched by the suspicion in Muder's eyes as the two men locked gazes.
"And I won't accept this kind of stalling from you, sir. Agent Scully is missing. Do you honestly think that if I had an inkling as to where she is, that I would be wasting time talking to you?"
Skinner's secretary entered, knocking on the door as she opened.
"What is it, Ms. Vrabel?" Skinner growled as he dropped his eyes from Mulder's.
"This just came in your mailbox." She handed him a large mail envelope.
"Thanks, Alyssa." Frowning, Skinner turned away and ripped the envelope open.
"You haven't answered my question, sir- - " Mulder began, but Skinner cut him off with an upraised hand.
"Yes?" She turned as she was about the exit.
"When did this come?"
"Who brought it?"
"I don't know. I was just away from my desk for a moment when it arrived. Is there a problem?"
"Not right now. But let me know if you get any more envelopes like this, all right?"
"Well, yes, of course." She gave him a puzzled smile as she closed the door.
"What is it?" Mulder asked with a sense of foreboding. Please, god, not a ransom note.
"I'm not sure." Skinner's face was grim. "Take a look yourself." He handed the envelope to Mulder and turned again to the window.
Mulder pulled out the sheet of Bureau stationery. Its header read: *FROM THE DESK OF: B.G.*
*FBI Headquarters, Lower Level*
"Nice touch, "Mulder muttered "A socially- climbing ghost."
The text was brief:
"*Agent Scully will be returned to you, but only if you indicate that you are fully cognizant of what her gifts mean to the Bureau. To that end, you will return her to active duty. She and her comedic sidekick Agent Mulder will cease investigations regarding my person immediately, and return to their previous investigation. Thank you for your attention in this matter.*"
"*Yours truly, B.G.*"
"*P.S. It would be a pity should I have to remove any more nosy security guards- - - or Assistant Directors. I trust your co- operation will be forthcoming, B.G.*"
Mulder looked up from the note. "Well, I'm sure he's loads of fun at parties. What do you think?"
"I think he holds all the cards. I don't like it, but I don't think we have much choice either."
"So we just give in? We just let this ghost get away with murder, kidnapping, and all the rest?"
"I didn't say that." Skinner turned towards the still- busy inspection team. "Found anything yet?"
"Mulder, it's obvious that this person is operating with equipment, supplies that we don't know about, that we can't even detect. These guys haven't found any indication as to how someone might have made an adult woman disappear from my office and simultaneously kill the lights, lock the blinds, and fill the room with the sound of laughter. Yet someone did all that, didn't they?"
"So we just give in."
"I didn't say that." Skinner glanced overhead, significantly. "But I do say we return Scully to work. Immediately. And we close this investigation and let you guys continue your work on- - what were you looking at before?"
Mulder nodded his silent understanding to Skinner and answered, "Well, we were actually looking at a couple of different things. There was the re- appearance of something that looked like black cancer, here in the D.C. region. Scully drew some connections to another investigation that led her to believe that Krycek may have resurfaced, here, possibly in that last few months. The other case was more clinical. We were testing the lump of so- called Schmidtite gneiss that was discovered fused with a basilitic material in a crop circle linked to a supposed alien sighting in Texas. It's a material not unlike that which was found in the storage hold of the Piper Maru....and traces of it were at another alien sighting in Pittsburgh. Agent Ruef was scheduled to help Scully with the testing, while I was going over some numerical data."
The door opened again. "I'm sorry, Walter, but another envelope just arrived." Alyssa's face was puzzled. "I was just across the room, sir.
My back was only turned for a moment, and- - - "
"And what?" Skinner accepted the envelope and ripped it open.
"And- - well, I'm sorry because I know you wanted me to pay closer attention, but I'm afraid that imissed seeing whomever dropped it off.
They must have been fast, sir."
"Indeed." Skinner was reading. "Very fast." Wordlessly he handed the paper to Mulder.
"*You have made the right choice. Agent Scully will be returned to you.
In precisely two hours, go alone to her office door and knock three times. Do not attempt to retrieve her any earlier
if you wish to see her alive again. Agent Scully will resume her investigations at precisely 6.30 p.m. this evening, when she will return to testing the rock in the lab. Ignore my instructions at your peril and Agent Scully's.*"
"*P.S. Do not interfere in my affairs, nor allow that insolent boy Mulder to do so either. B.G.*"
"Insolent boy?" Mulder's voice was incredulous. "Gee, I get the feeling that the B.G. isn't exactly a dues- paying member of my fan club."
"Mulder, what would you say to some lunch?" Skinner said unexpectedly.
"Why, sir, I didn't know you cared," Mulder half- minced. Skinner ignored the wisecrack.
"Someplace- - away from here. Someplace where we can't be heard. Go get your coat, Mulder, and meet me outside. Any recommendations on menu- - - or dining companions?"
A sardonic smile of comprehension flashed across Mulder's his face.
" I'm kind of in the mood for Cheese steaks with the cavalry ..."
Chapter VIII: Conspiracy a La Cheese Steaks
"Are you sure he's not wired?" Frohike demanded again, eyeing Skinner with the air of a man sizing up a new species of poisonous scorpion.
"If he is, even he doesn't know it." Mulder was finishing his cheese steak with obvious zest, while Skinner toyed with his own, returning Frohike's suspicion with interest.
"That's usually the way it is," Langly offered. He was sorting through the pile of papers in front of him. He whistled- - - "Some nice stuff this Ghost has been getting though the Bureau. Wish I'd thought of posing as the phantom of requisitions."
"But do you have any idea on tracking somebody with access to that kind of equipment?"
"Oh, sure," Langly returned. "The trouble is, it's kind of hard to monitor someone when you don't know where they are to begin with."
"He's in the bureau Building." Skinner gave up the struggle and pushed the greasy mess away from him "That's a start."
"Sure, but Jimmy Hoffa is in the Bureau Building too, and I wouldn't know how to bug him." Byers frowned from across the booth. "However, the connection with Agent Scully indicates that by monitoring her in some fashion we will be able to monitor the Ghost. If he kidnaps her again- - "
"No!" Mulder, Skinner and Frohike spoke at once.
"Whoa, touchy!" Langly shook his head. "Byers is right, guys."
"We are not letting anyone kidnap Agent Scully again." Skinner's voice was grim.
"I hate to agree with you but- - are you going to finish those fries?"
Skinner shook his head and Frohike grabbed the plate. "How can we risk putting her in that kind of danger? We don't even know if she's going to be returned or not."
Mulder eyed Byers. "Do you really think that's the only way?"
"What else can we do? Agent Scully is our only link to this person. He will obviously be watching this evening to ensure that she resumes working in the manner he has indicated, and on the case he wants her to. Now, hopefully, we can detect him without him managing to snatch Agent Scully. But we have to be prepared for any possibility."
"I hate it." Mulder's eyes creased with pain, "But what else can we do?"
"You don't even have any suspects," Langly offered.
"Oh yes we do." Skinner's mouth was a grim line. "The most obvious one of all."
Mulder nodded. "Right. Krycek."
"Krycek?" Frohike's shaggy eyebrows shot up. "He makes my skin crawl!"
"No." Skinner shook his head. "It's obvious. Who specifically told us to stop investigating the Bureau Ghost? Who knows the Bureau inside and out? Who was privy to the experimental origins of Cellar B back in the 1960's? The Cigarette- Smoking Man. That's who."
"He's gross too," Frohike offered with a mouth full of french fries.
Mulder shook his head. "I have to disagree. Look at the evidence. Krycek resurfaces in the same time frame that the Bureau Ghost begins this rash of activities. Scully dredges his name up from God knows where and connects him to the cases we've been working on. Why should that name surface right now? And I wouldn't put any level of knowledge past him."
"But why would he direct Scully to work on a case that may implicate him?" Skinner objected, "It doesn't make sense. But the Cigarette Man wold naturally want to deflect attention away from himself. And he has been underground for so long- - his supposed death, his clear falling out with his former master. Perhaps he's been licking his wounds and establishing new contacts with his old FBI knowledge."
"We could say all the same about Krycek, sir."
"Why does it have to be either of them? It could be anybody. It could be me!" Frohike wiped his mouth as the rest of the table regarded him silently. He rolled his eyes at their regard. "Well, of course it's NOT, but it COULD be, you know. Geez."
Mulder looked at his watch. "We've got to get back to meet Dana, if she reappears. When she reappears," her corrected himself.
"So how do we proceed?" asked Byers.
"Go ahead with your surveillance plans for this evening. Set up whatever you need. I can get you clearance as cleaners. You'll be less obvious to the bureau Ghost than an FBI team anyway. Mulder and I will monitor Agent Scully and her condition." Skinner scooted out of the diner booth.
Mulder followed. "I've called Dr. Petersen and asked if she can spare us some time before this evening...If Scully is up to it, I thought maybe further hypnosis will provide us some clues as to what she's been through. We should have time before our...appointment...with the Bureau Ghost."
Byers nodded. "Meanwhile, I'll take Agent Scully's notes on the case the Ghost has directed her to work on. I have some contacts in this area. It may be that I may find a key in that material."
"Thanks, Byers." Mulder turned to follow Skinner out of the diner. "But before we can use the key we have to find the door. See you tonight."
Chapter IX: Returned!
Dana Scully sat shivering in a chair in Dr. Petersen's office.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Dana?" Dr. Petersen offered her another mug of tea. Scully nodded, staring down into the mug.
"You don't have to, Scully." Mulder crouched down beside her. "Look, you've barely spoken a word since we found you in your office. We can get a hold of this guy without these memories, if you want."
"No." The word was low but firm. Scully looked up straight at Mulder.
"Mulder, he made me helpless. He took me without my will. He returned me with no memory of the previous two and a half hours." It occurred to Mulder that her hands shook with anger rather than shock. She drew a long breath and continued. "Nobody. Nobody does that to me. Nobody takes away that control. Not even- - - ," she paused.
"Your father?" he finished.
"No." But her voice was less certain than before. "I just want to know what's going on."
"Dana." Dr. Petersen was reassuring as ever. "You don't have to feel ashamed or frightened. Whoever has done this has been messing with your feelings, with your memory. It is completely normal for you to feel confused right now."
"I'm not confused." Scully stood. "I know what I want. I want to be in control. Let's do it." She tossed back the mug and put in on the desk before re- seating herself in front of Dr. Petersen.
Mulder stepped back, marvelling at her sheer strength of will. It had only been an hour since they had found her lying still on the floor of her office, cold as death and staring into space. She was wearing a long black trenchcoat over her clothing, spread around her like dark wings.
For a minute he had thought her dead, and he'd felt his heart stopping as Skinner knelt by her. It had been a long, long moment until her eyes suddenly blinked and focused.
As ever, Scully recovered quickly. Now she listened to Dr Petersen's soft voice, staring ahead with the grim air of a woman going into battle. Mulder only wished he had a better idea of the rules of engagement.
"...one," Dr. Petersen concluded her backwards countdown. "Dana, can you hear me? Say yes if you can hear me."
"Dana, we're going to go back to this afternoon. It was only a little while ago. You were in Assistant Director Skinner's office, and then you were someplace else. Can you tell me about that other place?"
"I remember...." Scully's voice was dull and monotone. "...there was mist...it was dark. But there was a light. A beam of light from a flashlight. Someone placed a dark coat on me, as we flew down...down...down...."
"Who was this person?"
"I don't know. I'm...afraid, but he says not to be. He says he knows me, and he wants to help me. He says he cares for me."
"Do you remember what he looks like?"
"No...yes....I tell him I've seen him before. I'm trying to look at him. He's wearing a coat, too...and a hat, I think...I can't see his face...there's something white, gleaming. It seems ridiculous, but it looks like an F.B.I. I.D....hanging from the coat."
"Can you see the I.D.? What does it say?"
"I can't read it...there's a K...there's an R....I think I see an E....he sees me trying to look and he covers it up...He tells me he will let me know him soon...I say I don't want to. And he laughs, and I can hear him... No!"
"What is it Dana?" Dr. Petersen flashed a warning look at Mulder.
"He's....inside my head...." Scully's voice trembled. "I tell him...I tell him...."
"What do you tell him?"
"I tell him I don't want him inside my mind. I want to be free. And he laughs at me...he laughs! He's saying I will never be free of him...never...he says he knows what's best for me, that he will train my mind...I tell him I don't want to learn that way...I don't want to be fashioned by someone else. But now he's grabbing me...he says 'You are already mine...'" Scully's voice came as a low hiss as she quoted her captor. "'Fate links thee to me....' NO!" Scully cut herself off.
"Dana, can we return to what your surroundings look like?"
Scully was shaking her head violently. "NO!NO! NO!"
"OK, Dana, I'm going to count to five, When I reach 5, you will be fully awake!" Scully kept shaking her head as Dr. Petersen spoke.
"Jesus, what happened?" Mulder brought Scully another mug and gingerly put a hand on her shoulder. "You ok?"
She accepted and nodded. "yeah....god I feel like hell." She shook her head again, but now it was as if clearing her head.
"What DID happen?"
Dr. Petersen sighed. "I can't be sure. Whoever this person is, he's a master of this kind of hypnosis that I'm only beginning to theorize.
It's almost impossible to say what really happened to you, and what memories he may have, well, implanted."
"Implanted?" Scully's hand went involuntarily to the back of her neck.
"Could these memories and images be mechanically implanted?"
"I- - suppose, but I've been going on the hypothesis that this is a form of hypnosis. Whatever the case, one thing is clear."
"I'm glad something is," Mulder muttered. Bern shot him a look and continued.
"Dana, you are resisting. You don't like being messed with. You've been resisting him all along. That's why you had the nightmarish endings to your visions.
"My hypothesis is this: He cannot *force* you to see anything. The heart of all hypnosis is suggestion. But what he does is to dredge up emotions, feelings, that make your emotional state confused. In this way, he can actually manipulate you into CHOOSING to accept his suggestions...suggestions which you would otherwise reject.
"But you resist. And the thoughts you produce when he attempts to manipulate you are not the ones he desires. Thus your nightmares. Thus your ambivalence. I suspect that he really does think he is helping you, that he is some kind of father figure, or perhaps, lover- - - "
"Oh, god,"Scully muttered. "I just want it over."
"It will, be Scully." Mulder crouched down and looked her in the eye.
"I'm going to get that bastard Krycek if it's the last thing I do."
"Krycek?" Scully frowned as she sipped the last of the tea. "But I thought Skinner said he thought Cancer Man was behind all this?"
"That's his theory. Mine is that it's Krycek messing with you. The man is psychotic. God knows how long he's been planning this."
"But if it were Cancer Man, perhaps he IS using the implant to help manipulate my mid, Mulder. We don't really know what that implant did to me in the first place, now, do we? And he was the one who led you to re- implant the chip in my neck, Mulder. Perhaps Skinner is right."
"Does that mean you've decided that it isn't your father?"
Mulder handed Scully her coat.
"I- - no, I..." Scully frowned. "I cannot accept that my father would want me to feel pain without purpose. But perhaps whoever this is wanted me to think it was my father. And that I cannot forgive. Thank you, Dr.
Petersen," Scully added, turning to Bern.
"I wish I could give you more answers. Uh, whatever happens, I'd like to include this data in a study. I wonder if- - - "
"I'd be happy to talk about it sometime. But we really have to get back on over to the Bureau right now. We have a rendezvous on the roof before we set the trap."
"On the roof? Whatever for?"
Mulder opened the door as he answered Bern. "When you plot against the devil, it's always best to meet among the angels."
Chapter X: Up on the Rooftop
The wind whipped around their coats as Skinner, Scully, and Mulder waited for the Lone Gunmen.
"I thought you said they were reliable," Skinner growled. "We don't have time to be messing around with unstable paranoiacs. Where the hell are they?"
"They're actually very stable paranoiacs." Mulder stuck his hands in his pockets. "And what choice do we have? We know that official channels are pretty well blocked to us."
"Agent Scully, are you sure that you want to go through with this?"
Skinner was unwontedly gentle. Scully smiled through the wind.
"You know I value you, Agent Scully. You're one of the brightest agents ever to walk through my door. You have so much potential..." Skinner broke off as if embarrassed, turning his head and looking into space.
"The Ghost would seem to agree," observed Mulder.
"Hi Ho!" Climbing out of the roof's trapdoor came a shuddering lump, which straightened and resolved itself into Frohike, wearing a disreputable fur coat which would not have been out of place on Rudy Vallee. He strolled over to the group as Langley popped out of the trapdoor, followed by Byers and another, slighter figure.
"Bambi!" Mulder sounded surprised. "Er, I mean, Dr. Bernbaum. Or are you using your husband's name now?"
The entomologist bestowed her perfect smile upon him. "No, it's still Dr. Bernbaum."
"Yeah, 'Bambi Bugger' sounds like something you could be arrested for,"
snickered Langly to Frohike, not as quietly as he might have liked.
Byers gave them a look, then explained:"Dr. Bernbaum was at a conference here this weekend. We have been corresponding recently regarding some of the research she did in connection with the cockroach case you both worked on."
"The material in the rock you've been studying, Agent Scully- - - the fused Schmidtite, is substantially similar to the material found in the crumbled remains of the seemingly metallic roaches. Or at least it appeared so from the notes regarding your preliminary inspections. I thought I might be able to assist you and Dr. Ruef in tonight's tests?"
Scully shrugged. "The more the merrier, although things are going to get a bit rougher than your average entomology convention. You did explain what's involved?" Byers nodded.
"And we're all set to rock and roll!" added Langly.
"If Agent scully will allow me- - - - " added Frohike. With the solemnity of a man giving a medal, he pinned a large rhinestone brooch to the lapel of her suit.
"Isn't that a little obvious?" asked Scully, craning her neck to look at the pin. "What is it? A bug?"
"No," answered Frohike, hurt. "It's a Pomeranian. I thought you'd like it."
"Yes." Langly spoke at the same time. "It's a fairly sophisticated camera. Just make sure your lapels are outside your lab coat, and we should be able to monitor your whereabouts. At the same time, it's got a silent signalling device embedded into it. Even if the camera is covered up, we can track your movements."
"Gee, where can I buy a pin like that? Mother's day is just around the corner," Mulder deadpanned.
"We managed to piece together a rough plan of the so- called 'Cellar B,'
from a variety of secret plans of the Bureau headquarters." Byers ignored Mulder's remark and drew some papers out of his coat pocket.
"Where in HELL did you get those?" Skinner made a grab at the papers.
"I'm hardly at liberty to say. The important thing is, we've plotted the co- ordinates on the monitor, so we'll have a rough- - a VERY rough- - idea of where Agent Scully is at all times."
"I clearly have the wrong people working for me. You did all this in the space of a few hours?" Skinner demanded.
"As if. We had most of the F.B.I. co- ordinates alread- OUCH!" Langly yelped as Frohike's foot somehow landed in his shin.
"We have to finish setting up. See you ringside!" Frohike explained with a smile and hustled Langly to the trapdoor.
"We'd better all get in place. Dr. Bernbaum, let me show you to the lab." Skinner turned to Mulder and Scully. 'You two ready?"
"We'll be right there," Mulder returned.
"As you say." Skinner followed Byers and Bernbaum through the door.
"Come on, Mulder. We don't have much time." Scully started after the others.
"Scully, I just wanted to say that..." Mulder broke off, dropping his head. He looked back up after a moment, a look of utter misery in his eyes. "I don't want to lose you. Not now."
"I don't want to lose you either, Mulder." Scully smiled. "I need somebody to be spookier than me, right?"
"Dana. I'm not very good at this." He caught at her hand. "But I want to tell you. You know how you said you have these pictures in your head, and it's always of a future, and somehow, there's always a place for me in it?"
She coloured slightly, but her tone was neutral. "Yes..."
"Well, I always think of you in my future, too. I do. We, we make a good team, Scully."
She smiled and put her other hand on his. "Yes. We do. And we're going to keep being a good team. For quite a while."
They stood there for an infinite moment, holding on to the rare understanding between them. The wind whipped around them, and there came a crunch of gravel.
"What was that?" Scully whirled around.
"I don't know. Scully, we're on the roof. Where could anyone possible hide?" Mulder swept his arm around, gesturing at the Washington sky.
"I'm just paranoid, I guess. Well. No time like the present to confront the skeletons in our closets, right, Mulder?" They strode towards the roof door.
"Scully, I just have one thing to ask of you."
"Hmm? What is it, Mulder?"
"If I'm always in your visions of the future- - - "
"What am I wearing?"
Scully's laugh echoed across the rooftop, cut off by the clanging of the door behind them. But there was no- one to hear, except for a wind that sounded strangely like a sigh and a shadow that crept slowly across the roof.
Chapter XI: Ghost Trap!
"Ah, Agent Scully." Dr. Liane Ruef looked up as Scully entered the lab.
"Good to see you." Her eyes sparkled with ill- concealed excitement. She had been warned to play the whole thing cool, and had been given a brief explanation of what was to going on, but it was obvious she was a little on edge. "I'm glad you came by to HAVE a LOOK at the RESULTS of the TESTS I've been RUNNING in the last WEEK." She looked up at the ceiling anxiously. "I KNOW you'll want to SEE them...."
"Easy, Liane..." Scully murmured to her. "Let's not give away the game, ok?"
Across the room, Mulder sat at the computer with Bambi.
"What do you make of these figures that Agent Oison came up with?"
"Well, there are more similarities than I had even thought. It is clear that this sample has been used in a way compatible with the organic/mechanical life forms that we theorized must have left the remains that I've been studying....Agent Mulder?" Bambi smiled. "You don't seem to be paying attention to me."
"Hmmm? Oh, you're right," he agreed. "Absolutely logical."
In the next- door office where he sat with Langly monitoring the activity in the lab, Frohike rolled his eyes. "I know it's an emergency and all, but give me a break."
"At least we can tell the monitors are working correctly." Frohike flipped a switch on this headset/microphone. "Muffy to Buffy. Come in."
"Buffy here." Byers' voice crackled over into Frohike's ear. "Are you and Goldilocks set?"
"Roger. Our surveillance of the bear's den is a go. All dwarfs in place."
"Great." Byers was sitting in Mulder's basement office with Skinner and a load of listening equipment focused on Scully's office. "Humpty Dumpty and I are in place."
"Just to let you know." Skinner growled as Byers turned off his headset.
"I don't appreciate the codename."
"Just to let you know," answered Byers evenly and with perfect courtesy.
Sinner opened his mouth to reply but seemed to think better of it. He swallowed, and looked away. "You know, I know you probably despise me."
"Despise implies too much prejudice." Byers checked some switches on the listening equipment. "I certainly detest the Bureau. This operation does not come easily to me. But I have a lot of trust in Agent Mulder."
"As do I," answered Skinner. "And Agent Scully."
"Agent Scully is an estimable person, whose opinion I value highly. Even if she did begin as a narc..." He frowned and fiddled with a button.
"A narc? Is that what you think of her? And me? Just another narc out saving *your* ass."
"Is that what you call what the Bureau does? Deceiving the American people? I know you're not blind to the lies."
"What I do is a hell of a lot more effective than you and your quixotic friends, running around with your manifestos on some kind of fool's errand...oh. hell." Skinner shook his head. "This is no time to argue. I'm sorry."
"I was just about to say the same."
Byers frowned, listening intently. "No, that this is no time to argue.
Chapter XII: An Unexpected Turn
The laboratory was extremely cold, but sweat beaded Scully's forehead as the minutes ticked away. With every result that she and Liane examined, she half- expected to be thrown into a trance, or for the lights to go out, or for her to be bodily lifted up into the air, or something equally dramatic. And the other agent's jumpiness wasn't helping either.
"SO! Agent Scully, do you think a further TESTing of the parameters would be USEFUL?!!!!"
*Agent Ruef is usually so quiet*, reflected Scully. No- one would believe how she reacted to the possibility of a maniacal psychotic running loose in the F.B.I. building. "Might as well try a Flynn Freeze," she answered calmly. "It's such a medieval procedure, but it's more reliable than the faster tests. Let's start one. When we get it underway, we can probably call it a night." As Ruef scurried about in delighted terror, Scully eyed Mulder sitting across the lab, miserable in Bambi's company.
*If the circumstances were different,* thought Scully, *I might very much enjoy the sight of Dr. Bernbaum being completely ignored.* Bambi caught Scully's eye. "Oh, Agent Scully, you should have a look at this!"
"I'm kind of tied up over here," Scully replied, turning again towards her workstation. She shot a glance back in Bambi and Mulder's direction.
Mulder had gotten up and was looking at something posted on the wall.
"Maybe you could bring it over in a moment?"
"Sure, Dana." Scully was inexplicably annoyed by the sight of Bambi's perfect teeth. *Hmm,* she reflected. *Irrational jealousy sure beats a sense of inescapable doom.*
Bambi uncrossed her lithe legs and rose from the workstation. As she did so, a slight vibration moved through the floor.
"What the hell is that?" Scully looked downwards. The vibrations were definitely getting stronger. She covered her ears with her hands.
"Mulder?" But he was already on his feet and sprinting towards her.
Bambi had notice the ever- increasing vibrations as well. "What is it?"
she asked aloud, stopping and glancing over head. A fluorescent light flicked and swung dangerously as the vibrations built to a crescendo, sending vials, glass, books, and everything else for a merry ride. Agent Ruef stumbled to the floor as Scully tried to steady herself on the wall.
Bambi had no such support. "What's going on?" she demanded again as the creaking and cracking noises overhead joined in the rumbling noise. She fell forward just as the florescent light ripped free from its precarious fastening and came tumbling down towards her head.
"Everybody down!" Mulder yelled as he reached Scully, but his voice was drowned out by a scream of horror as the room was plunged into utter blackness.
"Bambi!" Agent Ruef scrambled up from the floor as the lights flickered back on and the room stopped shaking.
"I- I'm ok..." came the dazed answer. Bambi sat up slowly, rubbing the cut in her forehead which barely disturbed the perfection of her skin.
The flourescent light had closely missed her.
"Whew! Just a false alarm, right Agent Scully?" Barb turned with relief Scully's workstation.
But the only trace of Scully and Mulder was a glittering rhinestone brooch in the shape of a Pomeranian.
Chapter XIII: Down Once More
Mulder had no idea where he was. The darkness was not complete, but nearly so. He had grabbed Scully's hand just before the lights went out, and felt himself being pulled along with her, through a corridor of cold air that rushed around his ears until they tingled.
But then he had dropped her hand, and now he huddled, blinking, trying to get a sense of his surroundings. As his eyes adjusted, he could see he was slumping against a wall in a long corridor. Fat cinder block pillars blocked his view, but as he peeped around one, he could see that they had also blocked the view of Scully's kidnapper. Far ahead of him, in the dim, dusty tunnel, Mulder could see a dark tench- coated figure leading Scully around the corner. Her white lab coat picked up what little light filtered into the tunnel so that it seemed to shine in comparison to the grey surroundings.
Cautiously, Mulder hugged the wall and proceeded to follow the figures before him. There was a dripping in the corridor, a if water were leaking somewhere, and a faint rumbling far away. The air filters?
Mulder wondered as he dashed around the corner trying to keep up with his prey.
They kept up like this for countless minutes. Mulder did not dare look at his watch or take his attention from the figures ahead of him. They passed through more tunnels, through hidden doors, and through vast, low, rooms of crates, boxes, and other more mysterious items, shrouded in dusty plastic. At any other time Mulder would have been tempted to delve into these secrets of the FBI, but not now. Not this time.
As he slunk around the next corner, Mulder's eyes widened at the sight of rushing water at his feet.
*Whoa, there. This presents a bit of a problem.* He was gazing across a rushing river as wide as his office, with no indication as to its depth.
Looking down, he saw silvery flashes in the running
stream, like....fish? Yes, blind fish, their sightless eyes bulging from their otherwise streamlined bodies.
He looked for his quarry, but they were already on the other side of the divide. A steel bridge folded back into the wall at the touch of the dark figure's finger, and Scully and her captor vanished through a cement archway.
*Well*, thought Mulder, gazing across the choppy water. *Here's a pretty kettle of troglodytic fish.*
Chapter XIV: In Which the Cavalry Re- groups
"What do you mean you LOST her?" Skinner snapped into Frohike's ear, having appropriated the headset communicator from Byers.
"I thought it was pretty clear the first time I said it."
Frohike nodded as Langly returned to their listening post, holding up the brooch. "Oh, here's why. She dropped the pin."
"I knew it! This was a stupid set- up from the beginning." Skinner ripped the headset off and slapped it at Byers. "I'm going in."
"Going in WHERE?" Byers gestured to the equipment he was listening to."I'm getting all kinds of readings from somewhere behind Agent Scully's office. We should be able to track their progress from here, although admittedly it is infinitely less precise than the planned course of action."
"Then you should be able to figure out where we go in. Obviously there's an entrance to Cellar B from Scully's office. Get on your caller and get a hold of Huey and Duey or whatever you guys are calling yourselves.
Have them confirm that Agent Ruef and Dr. Bernbaum are safe and stable then get them down here."
Skinner strode down the basement hallway. He reached into his pocket for his keys, and cursed as he tried to fit the basement master into Scully's lock. Of course, the clever demon had ensured that Scully's office lock core didn't open to the specified master. "The Phantom of Requisitions strikes again," muttered Skinner.
Sighing, he reached again into his coat pocket.
Frohike and Langly rounded the corner moments later.
"What the hell are YOU doing?" Langly gasped with ill- concealed astonishment as he watched Skinner deftly pick the lock. Skinner permitted himself the luxury of a tiny smile.
"Everybody learns a trade in the Marines. Let's get going." The lock's centre fell into his hand and he threw open the door.
"You know, when the revolution comes, we're going to have to shoot him first," Frohike remarked as Byers trotted up to them. "He's a little *too* good."
Skinner was tapping on the plasterboard wall. "Help me find it. The entrance had to be behind this wall. It's the only one that isn't solid cement."
"Or so the Ghost wold have us believe." Frohike folded his arms across the front of his disreputable vest.
"He's right, Frohike." Byers and Langly began tapping along with Skinner.
"Tap away," smirked Frohike. He strolled to the wall opposite them and began sliding his hands over it.
"Oh come on, Frohike, what do you know?" Langly was intent on the plasterboard.
"About mad, unrequited desire for a beautiful woman and improbable schemes in order to obtain her? Actually, quite a lot." And with that, Frohike fell through the wall.
Chapter XV: The Man in the Mask
Shivering violently, Fox Mulder eased his way around the corner of the arch. He wished that he dared to wring out his clothing, but he was afraid to make any unnecessary noises. He glanced down at his gun, reassured that he had managed to keep it dry as he forded the neck- deep water. *Thank God I didn't drop it*, he reflected.
The room was full of electronic equipment, vehicles, and other silently hulking heaps of metal and plastic whose purposes Mulder could only guess at. Mulder ducked behind one and tried to get a better look at the source of light that shone from the middle of the room.
"Open your mind.....Dana..." Mulder shivered as he heard the piercing whisper. Scully sat pale and still. She was illuminated by the light of a mass of flickering candles, incongruous and anachronistic next to a fantastic array of electronic equipment. Even in the depths of his horror and misery, Mulder couldn't suppress a passing though that Langly would swoon at the sight of it. Scully and her tormentor were dwarfed by the monitors, the computer terminals, the flickering video screens and other controls that littered the huge workstation. But unlike something that Langly might jerry- rig, all this equipment was sleek, slick, and finished. *Cellar B,* Mulder thought. *This is it.* "Reach inside yourself, Dana...." the voice continued, and Mulder shivered again, but this time it wasn't from the cold. *Krycek,* he thought. *You're such a bastard.* If only he could get a clear shot at the guy, but he'd approached from the wrong direction. He could get a clear look at him though, wearing a dark hat above the trenchcoat, and a white mask covering where his face appeared over the collar of the coat.
*Nice touch,* thought Mulder sardonically, *but is it bulletproof?* If only Scully would move, even a little. But still she sat, staring straight ahead, apparently entranced under the spell of her captor.
"Reach out...." The slightly- built figure raised his own hands stiffly toward Scully, arms straight out, dark leather gloves almost brushing her face. "Reach out, Dana, and open your mind. Tonight, you will reach deeper than ever before...hear me, Dana..."
Scully raised her own arms, trembling slightly, in a nerveless gesture mirroring her captor's. *Oh hell, there goes that shot,* thought Mulder.
"Yessssssssss," came the whispered hiss. "Dana...search your feelings...you want what I can give you. Let me help you, Dana...let me in...." Scully's face never wavered. Her arms reached out, further and further, seeking contact with her captor. Mulder watched in fascinated horror as she dropped her head back, vaguely smiling at her Phantom Svengali...
..and in one swift movement snatched away his mask.
Mulder dropped his gun.
Hideous scars tore across one side of his face, but there was no mistaking the identity of the howling figure who snatched Scully's hands in an iron grip. The features that were left were clearly those of the long- missing and presumed dead:
Agent Erik Pendrell.
Chapter XVI: the Dungeonmaster
"Are we there yet?" Frohike puffed behind Skinner and Byers.
"Hey, you're the one that got us in this tunnel," Langly muttered behind him.
Skinner frowned and wondered if the backup was really worth it. "Cut the chatter. We don't know who's listening." They were at the bottom of a long staircase, a low, sleek hallway branching out to either side of them. Skinner flashed his powerbeam light in both directions before asking: "Any ideas on directions?"
Byers consulted the printouts he held in his hand, with his small flashlight. "Well, this is all highly hypothetical, but I'd say....go right."
"Yes, why don't we just get moving?" Frohike started off. Skinner threw out a hand to stop them.
"What?" Frohike fidgeted. "Come on, FBI boy. I don't have to take orders from you- - -!"
"EVERYBODY DOWN!" Skinner landed on top of Frohike even as he shouted.
The others followed his direction, just in time as a series of bright green lights interlaced the space where their heads had been.
"What the hellll?" muttered Langley.
"Lasers. Never seen them used like that, but there they are." Skinner offered, rolling off Frohike and raising himself to his hand and knees.
"There's a timing device on the opposite wall. See the red sensor?" He pointed at a barely visible red bulb on the wall. "Anyone who pauses too long at the bottom of the stairs is assumed to be trespassing and is thus eliminated."
"Giving new meaning to the saying that he who hesitates is lost,"
offered Byers. "What now?"
"What else?" answered Skinner, retrieving his flashlight and commencing a crawl. "We go right."
The others moved to follow him, as they painfully worked their way down the corridor beneath the deadly web of lasers. They reached the end, only to find that the corridor turned left into nowhere. A rough cinderblock wall confronted them, some of its blocks sticking out at odd angles.
"Now what? So much for turning right." Frohike stood and pressed the wall. "No, no tricky spots here..."
He pressed at a few more blocks. "Nope, doesn't seem to do anything..."
He turned to the others.
And gasped as the floor slid away.
"Tricky!" Langly offered with admiration. They were squeezed between the lasers at their back and the dark hole beneath them. Skinner flashed his light down into the hole, revealing a downward- sloping tunnel.
"I don't like the looks of that, " offered Byers.
"Well, I'm stuck on the other side of it, and I like it even less!"
Frohike offered across the floorless chasm.
A faraway scream echoed up through the tunnel from somewhere even further downward.
"And I like that least of all," finished Skinner. "I think we have no choice. I'll go ahead and slide down. You wait here. If anything happens, at least you know you'll be able to get back upstairs.
"I'm surprised at you all," Langly put out his arm to stop Skinner. He looked ridiculously frail next to the bulk of the Assistant Director.
"Didn't you ever play Zork?" He fished around in his backpack, which clanked metallically, triumphantly pulling out a long spool of nylon cord. "Rope."
"What do you want to do with the rope?" Frohike prompted.
"Tie rope to bricks!" Langley tossed the cord to Frohike, who threaded one end through the holes of several of the bricks jutting out from the wall.
Frohike gestured down into the tunnel. "And NOW- - - Tunnel."
"What do you want to do with the tunnel?" Langly rejoined as Skinner grabbed the rope and began lowering himself down into the gaping hole.
"I hope to hell that there's an Altar of Reincarnation somewhere at the bottom of it," Frohike mumbled, following after the burly figure of the Assistant Director. Langley looked at Byers solemnly.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Byers nodded. "Yeah." Together they looked down the tunnel and spoke in grim unison.
"You have been eaten by a grue."
Chapter XVII: the Ghost, Dr. Scully, and a Blind Greek Poet
Mulder froze behind the hulking equipment that hid him, as he watched Pendrell violently shake Scully.
"Why? Oh Dana, Why?" He pushed her back into the wooden chair before him and put his hands to his ruined face. "Oh Dana, I only wanted to help you, to make you into what could had the potential to be." Scully gaped at him, moving her mouth as if to speak, but no sound came out.
The white mask lay on the floor beside her.
"No one knows better than I do how hard it is to be recognized in the Bureau, how the fools move up and into positions of power while the gifted are left behind...oh, Dana you deserved better than that..." He sat opposite her again, putting his hands on her face. She dropped her eyes before him. "And I wanted to help you see, Dana...you were only confused, that was all...in time, I wanted to tell you who I am...when you had come to know me, to love me...we were always kept apart before...."
"But now you cannot leave." Pendrell's face, no longer puppyish, hardened and his voice turned ugly. He's nuts, thought Mulder. He's absoultely loony. Edging to where his gun lay, Mulder eased toward it.
"You must stay here...Dana...we can be, happy, really we can. We can still work together Dana, you and I..." His voice softened but his eyes were wild as he caressed her face, standing again and reaching to turn her face towards him...."You can look at me, can't you, Dana? I did it all for you...after the accident in the hospital, Dana, when they removed the bullet- - remember Dana? I took that bullet for you...and I'd do it again, darling, you know I would...I couldn't face you...I wanted you to think I was dead, Dana, that was better than living..." he dropped her face and moved towards the array of controls and lights blinking before him.
*At last,* thought Mulder. *I can get a clear shot.* Slowly he grasped the gun and straightened back up.
"But, Dana, the men who came to help me...they knew what I could do."
Pendrell giggled madly. "They'd known all along, you see, who had helped you, who was really doing the work at the FBI...not MULDER...." His voice rang with hatred. "Not pretty- boy MULDER..but you, Dana."
Stil gripping Scully's wrist, he turned to the console and pressed a button. A panel on the hulk of metal in front of him slid back,revealing a glass case. Easing around the pillar, Mulder could see the candlelight reflecting from the the mannequin. Perfectly replicating Scully's every feature, the wax figure's head tilted to one side, red bouffant hairdo surrounding a vacuous smile. A long lab coat enfolded the pseudo- Scully, its bridal whiteness shining in the dark.
Pendrell reached one hand towards the glass, caressing it before turning to Scully.
"Yes...now you'll stay with me, Dana...you and I, we'll work together, FOREVER, Dana..." Pendrell's hand caressed Scully's still- immobile face, just as he had the glass overing the mannequin. "You and I...we make a good team, Dana..."
It was more than Mulder could stand. He stepped out from behind the pillar. "Federal Agent! Move away from the captive! Put your hands in the- - gack!" Mulder's gun fell, again, as he put his hands to his neck and the slowly tightening vise around it...
Scully had turned at the sight and now her eyes widened again with horror. She mouthed Mulder's name even as Pendrell grabbed her again and laughed, his voice echoing through the cavernous room.
"So, once again you bungle your operation, Mulder...what do you think, Dana? What should we do with Agent Mulder?" He put his mouth close to her ear and whispered "Whatever shall we do?"
Mulder grappled with the smooth iron that held him fast. It was attached to the pillar, which had whirred to electronic life at Pendrell's unseen command. As he struggled, the metal ring tightened around his neck.
"Don't struggle, Fox...just stay still." Pendrell stuck out a petulant lip. "You always have to be so difficult, Mulder. Really. What do you think, Dana? Shall we let him strangle? Should we shoot him? Or should we run an experiment upon him? I have some lovely, lovely ones, Dana. It will be just like the old days, in our lab coats, Dana....Dana?"
He turned her towards him. Tears ran down her still- silent face.
"Are you CRYING? You're crying for him? Oh, Dana...dana...danadanadanadana." Pendrell shook his head."That won't do.
That won't do at all. We can't have you be unhappy, Dana. No. " He put his hideous face close to hers, the mad glitter in his eye wilder than ever. "So I'll let him go, Dana. I'll let him go, and all the other people too...I won't blow it up after all..." he added. "Just kiss me, Scully, and promise you'll stay..."
"Scully...no.." choked Mulder. "Let me die...let her go...."
"Oh, silly Mulder. Silly, alien- chasing, sister- loving Mulder. I would have liked to have you for a lab mouse of my very own, yes I would have liked to take you up on your offer. Then I could experiment on you and blow up everyone else too! But we can't have Dana cry, NO! It makes her nose all red and her eyes all piggy. Piggy girl," he added ffectionately. He let go of Scully and stepped back. In his hand he held a tiny black cylinder. "Look, Dana. It's an all- in- one remote! TV, VCR, FBI Building!...If I press THIS button, Mulder chokes and everyone dies...if I press THIS button, Mulder goes and you stay with me...Which is it, Dana?"
Dana Scully looked at Mulder with infinite sadness. Still she spoke not a word. She turned away from Mulder's struggling form and stepped closer to Pendrell.
"Noo- - - Scully..." Mulder watched in horrified fascination as Scully turned her face up toward's Pendrell's. Pendrell trembled slightly.
Scully stepped closer, closer, pursed her lips and leaned towards him- -
And shot him cleanly through the hand. The remote dropped to the floor as Pendrell slumped over in pain. Scully hit his head with the butt of her gun and grabbed the remote. As Pendrell fell to the floor, Scully frowned at the remote, pressed a button, and Mulder broke free of the vise around his neck.
"Scully!" he croaked, drooping to his knees at the sudden release. "How did you...?" She cut him off with a one handed gesture as she reached up to her head, into her ear, and pulled out a small pad of cotton and wax.
She repeated the operation for her other ear.
"I knew that Classics course would come in handy someday," she remarked coolly, kneeling beside Mulder and checking his pulse.
"I would never denigrate the liberal arts, " he answered with effort, "but Classics?"
"Odysseus. He had his oarsmen stop their ears when they rowed past the isle of the sirens, who sang so sweetly that no- one could resist their ivitation to death. Pendrell made a mistake with the vibrations and the light. He intended it as a distaction, but it gave me time to plug my ears and resist his hypnosis...can you walk?"
Mulder stood, unsteadily, "Yeah...I'm just a little woozy from the decreased oxygen. What about him?" He gestured at the still- prone Pendrell.
"He'll live," Scully answered shortly. "He's quite insane, you know."
"I believe nuts is the clinical definition," Mulder answered. "Remember, I *am* the psychologist."
"Let's just get out of here; we'll deal with him later. You're wet all over, Mulder! Did you fall into the river?"
"Something like that. Let's go the way we came- - - uh- oh." Mulder stared at the archway.
"What?" Scully was cuffing the unconscious Pendrell to the chair.
"That." Mulder gestured to the archway, which was obscured by dust as the tunnel beyond it trembled and fell into the river.
"But he didn't press the button, Mulder! He can't destroy the building!"
"He doesn't have to, Scully, just this section of it." A stone from the top of the archway dropped as the shuddering tunnel's rumbling grew louder. "Just this section of it. Who's going to know if cellar B disappears or not?"
"So...what's plan B?" Scully asked desperately.
"Well, I'm not sure, but I think Plan B should be along right about- - - "
From behind them there came a popping noise as one of the tiles on the floor flipped open, revealing Walter Skinner's bulky head and shoulders.
"...now," Mulder finished almost casually as he and Scully darted for the trapdoor.
Epilogue: in Which We Somewhat Awkwardly Try to Tie Up Loose Ends
"Don't they have salad?" Scully asked desperately, scanning the diner's take- out menu.
"No, but you can get your steak with cottage cheese on lettuce," Frohike offered helpfully. "That's the diet plate. I think I'll get it myself."
He reached for the phone that huddled in the midst of the cluttered confusion of the Lone Gunmen's headquarters.
"Watching your figure, Frohike?" Mulder said, not looking up from the papers before him.
"So will Assistant Director Skinner be joining us?" Scully put her menu down and turned to Mulder.
"Hah. I think his days of breaking bread with the enemy are over...besides, he's still piled under with paperwork explaining last week's outing." Mulder looked up. "He decided that, considering the complete and total lack of evidence to support our story, that perhaps he would leave out the secret passageways, the hypnotic control, and the psychotic stalker in the basement. You know, the minor details."
"Typical bureaucrat," Byers shook his head. "No sense of integrity.
There's the picture frame, after all."
"No proof where it came from. No proof for any of it. So Skinner's just going to leave the Ghost out of it." Mulder stubbed his pencil in frustration.
"Well, I can't say as I blame him," Scully settled gingerly on a chair that appeared to be breeding dust bunnies. "We've got no way of getting back into the passageway, since it collapsed behind us. The entrance from my office has sealed, probably by an automatic security system. And the perpetrator is presumed dead, buried beneath a pile of rubble.
Really, I suppose justice has been served."
"Agent Pendrell's been presumed dead before, Scully," Mulder slid a paper over to her. "And look at this."
She read the paper over silently. "These are adoption papers...Pendrell was adopted? So?"
"So, he was adopted by a Bureau Agent working in the same division as my father, in the same year that Samantha was kidnapped. Pendrell was a Cellar B baby, Scully. Someone has had this in mind for him all along."
"Oh, come on, Mulder. Don't you think that's a little far- fetched? So his father was an FBI agent- - - so he's adopted- - so what? Are you suggesting he was deranged the whole time?" She shook her head. "Mulder, whatever injuries or misfortunes Agent Pendrell suffered after the shooting, they clearly unhinged him. Your theory would suggest that he harboured some kind of grand obsession with me all along. I think I would have noticed that, Mulder."
Frohike opened his mouth to speak, but shut it again.
Langly looked up briefly from his computer screen. "Well, whatever his mental state, the guy sure had access to some wicked machinery. I've come up with some theories as to how he produced his special effects, and if I'm even half right, then the government had some mighty cool weaponry stored in Cellar B. Probably including something to aid with the hypnotic suggestions. No wonder Skinner was warned to leave this alone."
"And who knows how many more 'Cellar Bs' there are in Washington, or indeed, around the country?" offered Byers darkly. "And how many more Agent Pendrells have been planted in order to guard them? Obviously, we're only scratching at the surface of a greater and more tangled conspiracy than we can dream. I'm hungry."
"Well, you never told me what you wanted on your cheese steak, salsa or gravy?" Frohike picked up the phone again as Scully blanched.
"Much as I'd love to do dinner with you guys, I really have to get going. Are you staying, Mulder? I guess I'll see you tomorrow."
"Er, no, I'll walk you to your car." He shrugged into his coat and followed her through the door. "I'm surprised at you, Scully."
"Surprised at what?"
"Well, I mean, you were so determined to fight whoever did this to you, and now- - " he shrugged. "You seem to willing to let it go."
She exhaled heavily, her breath forming clouds in the night air. "This case was about turning me into something I'm not, Mulder. It was like...like watching a movie of your life and knowing that you've been given a bad script."
"You mean like when Gene Roddenberry stoped writing for The Next Generation and the new writers kept messing up the characters? Man, I HATED that."
"OK, so maybe it's a bad metaphor, Mulder, but it's true. I don't like being manipulated, but the best remedy is for me to just take control again. I'm tired of living this ridicuous plot. Time to get some real writers." She opened the car door and sat down, rolling down the window. "The villain is dead. The movie's over. End of story. I get on with my life, and no more worrying about the Boogeyman, or the Bureau Ghost, or Agent Erik Pendrell." The engine roared into life. "And I will see you tomorrow, Mulder. Enjoy your cheese steak."
As the black car pulled away, Mulder was struck with a sense of foreboding. Pulling his trenchcoat around him, he glanced into the night air. The shadows seemed darker than a moment before.
"But Scully..." he muttered. "You forgot. There's always a sequel."
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