Title: Gestörtes Kinder
Author: Claire Allan
Written: July 2004
Classification: "Stand-alone," classic conspiracy X-File. No romance, no mythology, no spoilers.
Rating: PG for some language.
Post anywhere as long as credit is given to the author.
Feedback is appreciated
Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunmen, and AD Skinner are all property of Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. Other characters (Casey Byers, Bill Akely, etc) are mine. The contents here are purely fictional, and any reference to the living or dead means you're more paranoid than Mulder.

Synopsis: When the violence at a local high school increases, with each teen attacker having neither motive nor any recollection of the event, Mulder wants deeper investigation. Risking their reputations at the Bureau, the two agents search for answers. But can they find the truth before a close friend's niece is the next aggressor?

Cedar Grove High School
Seat Pleasant, MD
9:45 a.m.

A piercing school bell broke the silence of an early fall morning, awaking its high school students from first period. It was also the signal for the school's street hockey team to hit the showers. Street hockey had been added that year as a P.E. class, and quite a few teens had signed up, even though it meant doing something besides sleeping during first period.

A boyishly cute teen, Bill Akely, age 17, picked up speed and wheeled by his female teammate, Casey Byers. She was unlacing her roller blades, her straight brown hair hanging in front of her face as she knelt over. Bill came to a sudden stop just inches from her face and smiled at her cockily.

"Dammit Bill!" Casey hissed. "You almost gave me a heart attack."

Bill began to skate circles around Casey. "I'd hate to do that," he said acerbically. "It'd sure be a loss to your scrimmage team."

Casey playfully stuck her well-worn hockey stick in his path, and he quickly maneuvered around it. "You talk big for someone who hasn't scored a goal yet." She smirked at him, knowing she had won the battle. Bill narrowed his eyes. "We scrimmage this Friday. We'll see who the 'big-talker' is then."

Casey smiled sweetly as he skated away. Although their one-month platonic relationship consisted of street hockey "trash talk" and one-upmanship, it was fun. They both knew that the other never meant anything that was said on the court, so no feelings were ever hurt. Besides, they knew where the unspoken line was drawn, and neither dared to cross it.

Skates and stick in hand, Casey ran to the girl's locker room to change. Checking her watch, she opted not to shower, and instead washed her face in the sink. On her way out, she passed a younger acquaintance in the hall, drinking from the school water fountain. Casey had never cared for the school water, which she and her friends joked about, saying "one-in-five drinks contains mono!" She pulled her water bottle out of her mesh backpack and squirted the cool liquid into her mouth. She ran up the stairs and into the school building, heading for the math hall to sit through another lecture in Mr. Cox's Algebra II for juniors.

By lunchtime, Casey had begun to wish she had taken that shower. She had never cooled down from practice, and as the air- conditioner was often on the fritz, there was no chance in it getting better. She downed the last of her water, and headed toward the lunchroom to get some food. She passed by the same acquaintance she had seen in the hall, and said hello. The girl, Shelly Brington, only scowled back. Casey went on without saying anything; had it been one of her close friends she would have asked what was wrong, but filling her empty stomach was more important at the time.

Casey sat down with a group of other girls her age and began to eat the school's version of beef stroganoff. The conversation consisted of basic high school chat--boys, classes, the hockey team, and how bad the food was. Halfway through the lunch, Casey noticed Shelly storm into the lunchroom.

"Hey, do you guys know what's wrong with Shelly?" Casey asked her friends.

The other girls shook their heads. Casey shrugged, but watched Shelly to see if she would give any indication of the problem.

Before anyone knew what was happening, Shelly had gone over to a table of girls, grabbed one by the hair, pulled her out of her seat, and punched her in the face.

"Jeez, look at that!" Casey yelled, getting her friends' attention.

By now the entire lunchroom was standing to get a better view. Shelly and the other girl were on the floor, with Shelly violently hitting the girl over and over. Finally, a principal and two Student Resource Officers made their way through the crowd to break them apart.

"They'll never get Shelly off of her," muttered one of Casey's friends. "She's going berserk."

After what seemed like an eternity, Shelly was pulled away and hauled to the office, still kicking and flailing to the office. The other girl was still lying on the ground. Casey stood on a chair to get a better look, and gasped in shock.

"I-I think she's unconscious," Casey whispered as two more teachers stooped down to revive the girl, whose face was bloody and bruised from the unseen beating given by a normally temperate teenage girl.

FBI Headquarters Washington D.C.
6:32 p.m.

Special Agent Fox Mulder reclined in his chair and went over the final draft of his field report. Everything seemed in order, or as orderly as it could be while recounting the investigation of a Yeti in urban California. Although it had never been apprehended, ("Nor had it even been SPOTTED," his partner Dana Scully would remind him), Mulder was sure it was responsible for the slaying of midnight surfers in Malibu, leaving only mangled surf boards and swim trunks on the shore. There was no real explanation WHY a Yeti was in California, but...

Mulder's cell phone interrupted his thoughts with its shrill ring. He flipped it on, answering shortly "Mulder."

"Yo Mulder!" a hippie-ish voice replied.

Mulder rolled his eyes. It was Richard "Ringo" Langly of the Lone Gunmen, or, as Mulder so often referred to them, the "Three Stooges." "What's up Langly? You find another June bug whose underside resembles the bust of JFK?"

"No way man! Me, Frohike and Byers are gonna crack into some CIA files tonight at our place. They're mainly on Roswell, but they might turn up something else." There was a pause, and Mulder heard another voice in the background, probably Frohike's. "We got some cheese steaks too!" Langly added. "You down with that?"

Mulder sighed. Geeky as they were, the three guys (Langly, John Byers, and Melvin Frohike) were really all right when it came down to it. Besides, he finally knew people who were more paranoid than he. "Yeah," he said finally. "I'm in."

"Great!" Langly said. Mulder heard Frohike talking in the background again. "Um, Frohike says agent Scully is also welcome, as always."

Mulder grinned as his partner, Dana Scully walked into the office, knowing how much she hated being reminded of Frohike's constant crush on her. "Yeah, I'll mention it to her," he said as he hung up.

Scully eyed him. "Who was that?"

"Langly. He was offering dinner and a movie tonight for the five of us."

"Cheese steaks and hacking into CIA files? I think I'll pass."

Mulder faked offence; while actually impressed she had guessed the night's true festivities. "Come on. Frohike requested your presence."

Scully rolled her eyes upward and said dryly, "Really Mulder, I think I'd rather stay here and finish up on your 'Surfer Yeti.'"

Mulder shrugged. "Your loss." With that he grabbed his briefcase, said goodbye to Scully, and headed out.

Lone Gunmen Headquarters
7:21 p.m.

Mulder let himself into the warehouse the Lone Gunmen used as their magazine head quarters. Upon entering, he realized that no one was home. "Probably out getting the steaks," Mulder muttered. "And flowers for Scully."

Suddenly, he heard a noise in the back room. Mulder pulled his gun, knowing that the three men always kept surveillance on the premises, and anyone trespassing was considered a threat.

"Langly? Byers? Frohike?" Mulder called out warily. There was no verbal answer, but Mulder heard movement.

"Federal Agent," Mulder identified himself forcefully. "I want you to step out with your hands in the air, NOW."

Out from the darkness stepped 16 year- old Casey Byers; hands raised skyward, horn- rimmed reading glassed hanging off her nose. Her eyes showed childish worry, though trying to come across as calm and adult.

Mulder lowered his gun--slightly. "Who are you?" he asked her. "What are you doing here?"

Right as Casey opened her mouth to respond, the door opened. In walked Byers, Langly and Frohike. They all greeted Mulder, and then realized the situation. It was John Byers who spoke.

"What happened?" he asked as he rushed over to Mulder and the teenaged girl.

"I found her," Mulder gestured with his gun, "in your back room, where you keep your files."

Byers put his hands on Mulder's arms, lowering the gun. "Calm down Mulder," he said. "She's my niece, Casey Byers."

Mulder looked from Casey back to John. "Your...niece?"

Casey smiled and waved tentatively, her hands still in the air.

Mulder placed his gun back in the holster, but didn't take his eyes from Casey. "You never mentioned having a niece before."

"Yeah, well, my brother and his wife have never really approved of my uh, 'career choice,'" Byers muttered.

Casey spoke at this. "They think it's a waste of time and money. So can I put my hands down or what?"

Byers nodded to her. "She's staying with me for the long weekend. Her parents are gone on a trip."

Casey sighed and flopped down in a nearby chair. "Long weekend nothing. They left two days early!" She sighed dejectedly. "They're going on a trip like everyone else in the state...except me."

Byers looked at her, turning fatherly. "You have school, Casey."

"I know, I know." Casey stared thoughtfully at the floor. Then she looked up and grinned. "I've been reading these files, and I figure I can retaliate by developing my interest in the paranormal."

Byers rolled his eyes upward and turned to the main room. "I'm sure I'd score big with your parents after that. I can see it now...their daughter becomes interested in the one thing they hate..."

Mulder turned to Casey. "I'm Fox Mulder, with the FBI," he said. "Sorry about the gun thing."

Casey shrugged it off. "Don't mention it. If I had a gun, I'd probably pull it every time I got a little spooked." She paused a moment. "Byers tells me you work for the FBI...the X-Files division."

Mulder nodded. "Yeah, I deal with the paranormal." Suddenly he realized something. "Did you just call him 'Byers?'"

Casey raised her eyebrows, confused. "Yeah...doesn't everyone?"

Mulder shrugged. She had him beat.

From the main room, Langly yelled. "Yo Casey, get in here!"

Casey scooted past Mulder, who turned and followed.

The Lone Gunmen were sitting around a small TV, watching the local news. The anchor was reporting on a high school's recent rising violence--four major fights resulting in suspension over the past two weeks.

Frohike turned up the volume just in time to hear the school name given--Cedar Grove High School. Byers turned to his niece, asking "You know anything about this?"

Casey held out her hands in perplexity. "Beats me. I saw one of those fights first-hand. The girl came out of nowhere and just started punching. No real reason either."

Mulder frowned. "You mean she didn't have a motive for attacking the other girl?"

Casey shook her head. "Of course, this is all hearsay. Word around school is she was taken to the SRO office, interrogated by them and all, because of how badly the other girl was hurt. An hour later, she didn't really recall any of it. Didn't have any reason to hurt the girl. No one knows if she's faking or not, so she was suspended from school till further notice."

"Did you know either girl?" Mulder asked.

"I didn't really know the girl who got beat up...I saw her around, but never had a conversation with her or anything. So I don't know what she's like. But Shelly, the other girl, I knew her pretty well. Not a close friend, but I'd say I knew her well enough to say she was very mild-mannered. She's not someone you would consider a threat to your safety."

Mulder nodded. "Until now." He turned to the other three men. "Guys, I'm gonna pass on those steaks tonight. Think I have some work that needs to be done. I'll see you around."

They said their goodbyes, with Frohike adding a request for his regards to be given to agent Scully. Mulder got into his car and headed not for his apartment, but rather in the opposite direction--to his partner's. Frohike's "regards" weren't the only thing he needed to tell her.

Dana Scully's Apartment
8:53 p.m.

Scully shut down her laptop and organized the files that scattered her desk. Even though it was early, she was ready to turn in. It was the first night home from a weeklong investigation with Mulder's "Surfer Yeti," which she was ready to be done with. With plans of watching the Nick-at-Nite Alfred Hitchcock marathon, she headed to the bathroom to take her shower.

A sharp knocking on her apartment door interrupted her plans. Scully turned on foot and looked through the peephole to see the face of Fox Mulder.

She opened the door, looking quizzically at her partner. "Mulder, what's up?" she inquired.

Mulder stepped into her apartment, walking towards the TV. "You been watching the news, Scully?"

"No, I've been finishing up on the last case," Scully replied, hoping he'd get the point.

If he got it, he didn't acknowledge it. He turned on the TV and flipped to the local station, where the newscast he had seen earlier was about to repeat. "I want you to watch this, and then we need to go talk to someone."

"Mulder, what's all this about?"

Mulder nodded towards the TV, where the local high school story was being replayed. It only received a three-minute time slot, as schoolyard teenaged violence was no surprise nowadays. But Mulder had seen enough. Scully, however, had not.

"Did you know any of those kids, Mulder?"

He shook his head. "No."

Scully eyed him. "Tell me you don't think this is an X-File..."

Mulder didn't answer directly, which worried Scully. "There's someone we need to speak with."

Lone Gunmen Headquarters
9:24 p.m.

Scully rolled her eyes as the two agents approached the shadowy warehouse. "This better not have anything to do with Frohike."

Mulder shook his head. "No, this is something else. Something serious."

They entered the building, and found the three men sitting around a computer screen. Frohike looked up and smiled.

"Ah you have returned...and you brought the lovely Agent Scully as well," he said.

Scully smiled politely as Mulder turned to Byers.

"Where's you niece at? I wanted to ask her some questions about the fights that have been occurring at her high school."

Byers nodded towards the back. "She's reading the files and old magazine issues. Don't keep her too long, we're leaving for home soon."

Mulder nodded, and directed Scully to the room he had first seen Casey.

She was sitting at a desk, reading glasses back on, thumbing through an old issue of the Lone Gunmen's magazine. Upon hearing Mulder and Scully enter, she looked up.

With a wry grin she said to Mulder "You ain't gonna pull that gun on me again?"

Scully looked at Mulder suspiciously. He ignored both the question and Scully's look.

"This is my partner, Dana Scully. We wanted to ask you some questions about your school--about the violence that has taken an up rise."

"Sure, what do you want to know?" Casey replied.

"When did these fights start?" Mulder asked.

Casey thought for a moment. "There've always been fights, of course. My school's pretty tame, but no matter what, you'll always have some kids who just want to fight. But the thing is, whenever they'd do something, you'd never be surprised about it. Hearing news like that was just part of a daily routine," she paused a second. "When the recent fights started occurring, it was different though. I guess the first one was about two weeks ago, and it involved someone I knew. This guy was great--always nice to you and everything, ya know? No matter who you were. One day he just snapped, and beat the living crap out of a student--an underclassmen asking for directions, no less!

"Of course, the school isn't going to look into it; in their eyes he's just one of those 'disturbed children.' No reason to believe that he really didn't remember why he did it. They did the drug test, and it came back negative, so they suspended him for three weeks. End of story...theirs, anyway."

"What about the others?" Mulder inquired.

"The first one was, what did I say...two weeks ago? There've been three more since then. The last one involved another kid I knew--a girl named Shelly Brington."

"What were the ages in the four aggressors?" Scully asked, beginning to see where Mulder was going with this, though not sure she agreed.

"Dave is a senior, the next kid is a junior, the next a senior, and Shelly is a sophomore," Casey replied.

"Any known connection?"

"The only connection I make is that they were the least likely to do something like this."

Mulder nodded and stood. "Thank you, Casey. We'll be in touch."

Casey waved goodbye as the two agents left. Scully waited until they were in the parking lot before speaking her mind.

"Please don't tell me you think this is the work of 'Little Green Men.'"

Mulder's features remained serious as he held open the passenger side door for her. "Gray," was all he said before shutting it and strolling around to the driver's side.

Once inside he smiled at his partner. "Actually, I'm joking. Except for the 'gray' part."

"You don't think this is an X-File?" asked Scully, confused. "But when you came over--"

"It doesn't look like an X-File, but it does merit some investigation by the agents of the X-Files."

"Any reason why?"

Mulder drove slowly back to Scully's apartment, so he would have enough time to tell her everything. "Fighting in suburban schools has risen what in the last five years? Last time I checked it was 38 percent. These fights are the worse ones Casey Byers, an upperclassman, has seen, yet they are not bad enough for the police to really take over. They're border lining the responsibility between the school and the police. Either way, they won't give the kids the benefit of the doubt."

"Which is..."

"That they're telling the truth. That they really don't remember why they attacked a random student."

Scully thought a moment. "So what's your plan?"

FBI Headquarters
Washington D.C.
Thursday, 8:39 a.m.

Assistant Director Walter Skinner flipped to the last piece of paper in front of him and sighed. Sticking his fingers under his glasses to rub his eyes, he spoke to the agent in front of him.

"Agent Mulder, do you really feel investigation into this situation is needed?"

Mulder sat in front if his superior, nodding vigorously. "Yes sir. I've spoken with a student of the school, and I think that under the circumstances--"

"Under what circumstances?" Skinner asked shortly.

"The profiles of the students who have been suspended. Now, I've looked into them and each student has a clear record--never been in a fight, never gotten into trouble. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if they'd never raised their voice at another student."

Skinner shook his head. "Agent Mulder, from what I've heard the Cedar Grove faculty has everything under control. They have increased security in the school, and all necessary precautions will be taken. Since these outbursts have been merely fist fights, and no weapons have been used, there's no need for the FBI to look into this."

Mulder sighed. "But sir-"

"Agent Mulder," Skinner raised his voice, "if you truly think that there's something worth investigating here, you will do it as a civilian. The FBI has more important things to worry about than schoolyard scraps over girlfriends and boyfriends. Do I make myself clear?"

It took Mulder only a second to consider his options. Then he reached into his jacket and pulled out his ID, removed his gun from his holster and places them both in Skinner's hand. "Perfectly clear," he answered as he walked from the office.

Cedar Grove High School 10:30 a.m.

Casey Byers sat staring at the clock on the wall. Five more minutes and she could escape to her art class, far from the right-brain vocabulary and equations of her algebra II class. The bell couldn't ring soon enough.

Her eyes wandered around the room and came to rest on Sam Waynes, the junior class president and basketball captain. A straight-A student, he was always willing to lend his fellow students a helping hand in their studies. Besides that, he was very nice and hardly ever spoke badly of anyone. His gaze caught Casey's, and the two students smiled. Casey's eyes went back to check the clock, and she was disheartened to find that only a minute and a half had passed.

"Honestly, this is the slowest class of the day," Casey muttered to herself, careful not to be heard by her teacher, who was lecturing on the fun of matrices.

After what seemed like hours, the bell finally rang. Casey jumped from her seat and was one of the first out the door. Before heading to art class, she decided to drop off her algebra book at her locker, as she had no homework. On her way, she passed Sam.

He was at the water fountain, filling up a thermos. "Hey Case!" he called out cheerfully upon seeing her.

"Hey Sam," Casey called back with a grin. He was an all right guy.

Casey reached for her own water bottle and drank from it. She knew Sam liked to drink water throughout the day, as the basketball team had been having many after school practices in preparation for their upcoming season. With her street hockey scrimmage in a little over a day, she decided to follow his habit.

As she passed by the front office, she saw a familiar person signing in. Double backing, she stuck her head in the doorway.

"Agent Mulder?" she asked, surprised. Although she knew he had taken an interest in her school, she was startled to see him there.

Mulder looked up. "Hi Casey. Can you spare a second?"

Casey looked to the secretary. "Can you write me a pass?"

The secretary nodded, and allowed the two to go into a private conference room in the back of the office.

"What's wrong?" Casey asked, worried. "Did something happen?"

Mulder frowned. "No, why?"

"Well, I didn't really expect to see someone from the FBI in my school," Casey replied.

"I just wanted to come take a look around for myself." Mulder's tone got softer. "Look Casey, I think that there's something deeper here. Another reason for these outbursts of violence that the school or the police aren't going to see. That's why I'm here, to try and prove these kids' innocence. But I don't want you to tell anyone who I am. If you see Agent Scully, or me, I'd like you to act like you don't know us--like we're just ordinary people."

Casey nodded. "Sure, Mulder, no problem. I just don't get why this is something the FBI feels it should look into. I mean, it's not that I don't appreciate it, it's just..." she trailed off.

"Just what?" Mulder pressed.

Casey sighed. "What adult ever gives teenagers the benefit of the doubt? Especially one who has no connection to kids?"

Mulder was quiet a moment. He knew how it felt. Telling someone of authority something and not being believed. He experienced that every day. "I might not have a connection, but I want to believe," he said softly.

Casey nodded. "Good luck then, Agent Mul--I mean, 'Mister.'"

Mulder smiled. "See ya."

As Casey left for class, his cell phone rang. "Better not get that confiscated," Casey called over her shoulder.

"Mulder," he answered, smiling at the teen's humor.

"Mulder, it's me," said a familiar voice. "Where are you?"

"I'm at Cedar Grove High School, beginning my investigation as a 'civilian,' where are you?"

"Stay there. I'm coming over."

Forty-five minutes later Scully walked through the doors of the high school, looking rather angry.

Mulder grinned. "Hey Scully, what's up?"

"I was called into Skinner's office to explain your behavior," Scully said tetchily. "Then, I go back to the office to find out you've ditched me. I really don't appreciate finding these things out after they happen, Mulder."

Mulder nodded, knowing she was right. "I know, and I'm sorry Scully. I would have told you before, but I didn't decide to take a leave of absence until I met with Skinner. And I couldn't go back to the office without my badge, so I left you a voicemail in hopes you'd forgive me," he ended, his eyebrows raised sheepishly.

Scully sighed. He had meant well, and she knew how his passion for the truth would sometimes make him forget he had someone else on his side. "Well, I'm here to help your 'civilian' investigation."

Mulder looked at her, shocked. "You mean, you turned in your badge?"

Scully nodded. "Whatever you think is going on here, Mulder, I trust you. And I'll help you find the truth."

Mulder smiled, knowing his partner would never let him down. "I just spoke to Casey. I told her we'd be around and not to tell anyone who we were. The only people who know are the principals and a few teachers."

Scully acquiesced. "But what are we looking for, Mulder?"

Mulder shook his head. "I don't know yet. Why don't you go talk to the principal, maybe some of the teachers that knew those kids well; if possible ones who know who we are and why we're here."

"Where will you be?"

Mulder started out the door to the main hallway. "Looking for anything fishy."

Mulder turned the corner and wandered around the school building, a hand-written "Visitor" pass hanging in place of his usual FBI I.D. He passed by a side door, and saw a uniformed man backing up and pulling a dolly. Mulder opened the door and held it open for him.

"Thanks," said the man. "I was hoping I could get someone to help me out with this."

As he moved through the doorway, Mulder noticed a fifty-gallon water tank on the dolly. "What's this?" He inquired.

"Oh," the man stopped and wiped his forehead on his sleeve. "It's water for the school."

Mulder frowned. "You mean they don't use the same water as everyone else? They use something besides city water?"

The man shook his head. "I work with the city, actually, and we're shipping in purified water for them. They had a big mono breakout last year, got about 40 percent of the school sick. Water fountains were the main cause, as you probably guessed. So they've ordered purified water to be pumped into the water fountain system. Dips pretty deep into their pockets, but they have the parent support needed."

Mulder took a look at the unmarked tank. It resembled a helium tank, with fixtures at the top to be connected to the main plumbing system. He glanced up at the unknown man, and saw his nametag read "H. Gorely." "Has it helped any?"

"Sick rate's gone down quite a bit, actually," Gorely replied. "This is the prime source in schools, you know. Once you clean up the fountain and the water, it's all up to personal hygiene to do the rest."

Mulder nodded. "Thanks a lot," he said, and turned to leave.

Mulder's search for "anything fishy" was becoming unsuccessful. He had questioned faculty, and no one seemed to give any indication that they knew more than they let on. Nor did they seem to give any of the kids the benefit of the doubt. They blamed it all on "society."

Mulder met up with Scully at the front office after lunch, and the two headed out the door.

"You find anything?" asked Mulder.

Scully shook her head. "They all acted like it was expected of these kids. No one even mentioned that they were all excelling students with good reputations."

"Yeah, I got the same thing," said Mulder. He sighed as they reached her car, and looked back at the school. "Maybe this was a mistake."

Scully put her hand on his arm. "We still have the four kids to talk to," she reminded him. "I say we question them before we rule this out."

Mulder thought for a moment. "Yeah, you do that." He walked off, heading towards his car.

"Mulder, where are you going?" Scully asked.

Mulder turned around briefly. "I want to check up on something...something about the water the school is having imported. I'll call you."

Scully sighed as he walked away. Then she got into the car and headed toward the local neighborhood, where the first teenaged aggressor lived.

Lone Gunmen Headquarters
1:18 p.m.

Frohike, Langly, Byers, and Mulder sat around a computer screen, with Langly at the keyboard.

"Okay, search for 'Gorely' as the last name," said Mulder.

Langly typed it in, and a profile for Howard Gorely popped up. Mulder read the information and sighed, frustrated.

"Looks like he's clean, Mulder," said Langly. "Worked for the City of Seat Pleasant for three years, no criminal record, no drug abuse..."

"Yeah," Mulder muttered. Before he could say anything else, his cell phone's shrill ring echoed in the warehouse.

"Mulder," he answered.

"Mulder, it's me," said Scully.

"Have you had a chance to talk to any of the four kids?" Mulder asked first thing.

"Mulder, it doesn't matter. There was another fight...and this time, they have something to pin him with."

Mulder headed out the door, leaving the Lone Gunmen without a goodbye. "I'll be right there."

Cedar Grove High School
2:00 p.m.

Mulder met up with Scully in a swarm of police officers outside the high school. "What happened?" he asked her.

"This time it was the junior class president," said Scully as they moved away from the excitement. "Apparently he attacked another junior, and was using a wooden ruler as a weapon. Took two principals and two teachers to pull him off of the other kid."

"You said they had something to pin him with," Mulder said.

"They found steroids in his locker. He was a big basketball player, and apparently had been using them for a few weeks. Steroids are known to bring on erratic and sometimes violent behavior, which would explain the sudden attack."

Mulder nodded. "That doesn't explain the other four, though."

Scully sighed. "Mulder, I never made it over to question them. Now I'm glad I didn't. This boy was an outstanding student, and he was using steroids. I hate to say it, but the others were probably using something as well."

"How do you explain the drug tests?" Mulder asked, his temper beginning to rise.

Scully paused. "There was only a certain type of drug test administered. Sometimes they're inaccurate, and sometimes they won't pick up certain types of steroids. If these five kids were using that type, then there's a chance the test didn't pick it up."

Mulder's jaw clenched and he looked back at the school. "That's not it, Scully."

"Mulder," Scully said quietly, "it's over. It's time to give it up and go back to work. This is finished."

Mulder stormed off to his car, got in, and drove off leaving Scully behind. He didn't believe what just happened, but there was nothing he could do.

FBI Headquarters Friday
8:13 a.m.

Walter Skinner eyed Mulder and Scully over the rims of his glasses.

"This isn't the first time you've pulled a stunt like this," he said, indicating Mulder. "But Agent Scully, I would have expected more from you."

Mulder interjected. "Sir, with all due respect, I asked Agent Scully to join me. She did not do it on her own."

Skinner frowned warily. "When I talked to her yesterday, she said she had not heard from you. I was under the impression I gave her the news of your 'leave of absence.'"

Mulder opened his mouth but nothing came out. He was caught, trying to save his partner.

"You were the one to tell me, Sir," Scully said quickly. "I was surprised to hear he was pursuing the investigation as a civilian, but I had promised him to help no matter what."

Skinner sat back in his chair, chin resting on his hand. "I covered for you two yesterday, so you had better watch your step the next few weeks. You'll be given a new assignment today "

Mulder and Scully nodded, and left the office. When they were out of earshot, Scully looked over at Mulder.

"Thanks," she said softly.

"For what?" Mulder asked.

"Covering for me back there."

Mulder shrugged. "From what I heard, you covered for me. Skinner would have never believed what I said, had you not confirmed it."

Scully smiled as they reached the elevator. "You would have done the same."

Together they retreated to the office in the basement.

Cedar Grove High School
1:25 p.m.

Casey wandered through the halls toward her fifth period history class. Bill Akley appeared from behind a locker and playfully shoved at her.

"Hey!" he yelled out. "You ready to get beat today at the street hockey scrimmage?"

Casey shoved him back. "You're asking the wrong person. I'll be the one who beats you!"

Bill grinned and sauntered into his next class. Casey smiled to herself, his dumb grin sticking out in her mind. Unconsciously, she reached into her backpack and pulled out her water bottle. This time, however, she found it empty, having drank the last of it at lunch. "Oh well," she said to herself. "I'll just fill it up at the water fountain. One time won't hurt me."

Stopping at the nearest fountain, Casey filled her water bottle full. She remembered the mono breakout from last year, but also knew the school was having purified water shipped in. Not wanting to be late for class, she jogged down the hall.

By sixth period, Casey had drunk half of the water. She was beginning to feel a little sick--light headed and weak. She passed it off as allergies or a cold, and began to focus on the street hockey scrimmage that was to be held in an hour.

Finally, she had to put her head down. Everything was spinning, and she was beginning to get a migraine. All the voices were blurring together, so when the bell rang, it took her a minute to respond. Casey packed her things up and slowly headed to the locker room.

Ten minutes later she was on the court, stick in hand. She and Bill were to face off, and they met halfway. The referee, an assistant gym teacher, was working with the scoreboard. The two teens stood nose to nose at the center.

Bill glared his eyes and grinned evilly. "You're going down, Casey!"

Casey swayed back and forth. She heard what Bill said, and felt angry. Was he threatening her? She looked him in the eyes and saw him glowering back.

Bill laughed. "I hope your team's decent; someone will have to make up for what you mess up!"

Casey felt her anger rise. She had never been angry at what Bill said on the court, but for some reason, today was different. It was like she was someone else.

"Shut the hell up, Bill," she said through clenched teeth. "I'm not in the mood..."

Bill skated circles around her, like he had a few days before. "Whassa matter?" He mocked her. "Little girl can't take a little heat?"

At that moment, Casey felt herself leave her body. She saw her hockey stick hit the ground, and felt herself dive onto Bill. She began to kick him with her roller blades and punch him. Suddenly, she grabbed for her hockey stick and used the elongated end as a weapon to hit him with.

It took three faculty members to pull Casey off of Bill. Someone yelled for an ambulance to be called--Bill was unconscious, and his bloody face made it hard to tell who he was. Casey was taken to the office to be held until authorities could be notified.

FBI Headquarters
3:45 p.m.

"The suspect's name is Olivia Rodriguez," read Agent Scully from the case file given to her that afternoon. "She is wanted for two counts of homicide. In both cases, the victim was strangled with her prints found on the throat, but, and here's the good part Mulder, Olivia's arms were amputated from the wrists down four years before."

If there had been a window in the basement office, Mulder would have been staring out of it. Instead, he had to settle for the concrete wall. Scully looked up and straight at Mulder.

"You okay?" she asked, genuinely concerned.

"Yeah," Mulder mumbled. "Just thinking about those kids..."

Scully said nothing. After the previous afternoon, she didn't want to try to remind him it was over.

Fortunately, the phone rang. Mulder answered, and turned to look at Scully, shocked. "She asked for us, too? We'll be right there."

"Who was that?" Scully asked.

Mulder stood and grabbed his coat. "Langly. Byers just got called into school...Casey's been in a fight. She asked for us as well." He tossed her coat to her, and opened the door. "Let's go."

Scully contemplated on arguing, but decided against it. She and Mulder headed out the door to the parking lot.

Cedar Grove High School
4:30 p.m.

Mulder and Scully arrive to see the end of the "parent/teacher conference" with Byers, Casey and the principal. Byers exited the office, looked distraught. "She wants to talk to you," he muttered, indicating Casey.

The two agents went in. Casey sat, still in her street hockey gear, in the conference room. Her head was hung, her shoulders slumped. If Mulder didn't know any better, he'd presume her to be guilty. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, he decided to let Scully handle the interrogation while he talked to Byers.

John Byers sighed as he and Mulder made their way into another room. He seemed to have aged years in a matter of minutes.

"When her parents come home, and find out what happened..." Byers trailed off.

"It's not your fault, though," said Mulder. "I'm betting it isn't even her fault."

"It doesn't matter, Mulder," Byers said, exasperated. "Her parents will blame me. They'll say that I put these ideas in her head. She'll be in so much trouble, getting suspended for fighting. And I'm worried that the police might hold her for how violent a fight it was."

Mulder nodded slightly. He understood how hard it was, in both cases. But he still believed there was another explanation, one that would clear Casey and the other five kids involved in the similar incidents. "Did Casey have anything with her? A backpack, purse, whatever?"

Byers nodded towards the nurse's office. "They're keeping the stuff she had with her in there. Police have already gone through it, thank God they didn't find anything to get her in more trouble."

"Mind if I have a look?" asked Mulder.

"Help yourself."

Mulder entered the empty nurse's office, noting how similar it was to the one from his old high school. He saw Casey's mesh backpack and Nike sports bag sitting on a chair. The police were right, he determined as he searched the bags, there was nothing there to explain her rash behavior. Mulder was just about to leave when he saw Casey's water bottle tucked away in a half-open zippered pocked. He pulled it out, unscrewed the lid, and looked inside. About one-fourth of the bottom still had liquid in it. He stuck his nose closer and sniffed, smelling a faint trace of chlorine.

It only took him a moment to come up with a theory, but he knew he couldn't find the truth alone. He ran back to the conference room to find his partner.

When Scully had entered the room where Casey was being kept, she couldn't help but note the girl's body language was screaming "guilty." Head down, shoulders slumped, no eye contact...the true criminals Scully and Mulder had seen over the years usually had this type of poise after being caught. "The benefit of the doubt," she reminded herself before pulling up a chair in front of Casey.

"Hi Casey," she said softly. "You remember me?"

"Yeah," Casey muttered. "Where's Mulder?"

"Talking to your Uncle, outside." Scully paused a moment to chose her words carefully. "You want to talk about what happened this afternoon?"

Casey let out a shuddering sigh, and looked up at Scully with tear-filled eyes. "I...I don't know," she whispered.

"Do you remember?"

"Yeah...but it was like it wasn't me...like I was watching myself from somewhere else," Casey turned her attention towards the tiled floor.

Scully looked through the second of the two records Mulder had given to her in the car, the one on William Akely. "Bill Akely, same age as you, played on the same street hockey team. How long have you known him?"

Casey shrugged. "Just this year. We met through hockey."

Scully paused, choosing the wording of the question carefully. "Your coach, as well as other teachers, reported a sort of 'trash talk' between the two of you. Nothing threatening, nor vulgar, but nonetheless...did he ever give you any reason to be angry with him?"

Casey shook her head vehemently. "No. Bill...was my friend. Yeah, we goofed around, but deep down..." her voice got softer, "I knew he really liked me. And I liked him. We never said anything to hurt each other...it was just 'one-upmanship,' you know?" Tears fell from her eyes as her voice broke off. "I'd never do anything to hurt him, never." She looked pleadingly into Scully's eyes. "You gotta believe me!"

Scully out a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I do. But we have to find something to give everyone else reason to believe you...and the other five kids."

At that moment, Mulder opened the door. "Scully," he said in a hurry, "I think I've found something."

Scully stood and walked over to him. He handed her Casey's water bottle. "I talked to Byers, he said Casey takes this and drinks on it during the day. It's usually filled with water from home, but smell this," he pointed into the top.

Scully did so, and frowned. "It has a trace of chlorine."

Mulder nodded. "School water. They put chlorine in there to kill germs." He turned to Casey. "Did you fill this up at the water fountain today?"

Casey nodded. "Right before fifth period."

Mulder walked over to her. "Did you at any time during the day feel sick, or not like yourself?"

"Around sixth period I started feeling dizzy and weak. Then I got a migraine and my vision was blurry. It kind of went away after school was out."

Mulder turned back to Scully. "I want you to run a lab test on that water. See if there's anything unordinary in it. I'm gonna stay here and keep an eye on Casey and Byers."

Scully nodded. "I'll call you when I get the results."

Mulder paced around the school office, waiting on Scully's call, knowing it would take some time. The police were interrogating Casey again, while Byers and the principal stood by. Mulder prayed they could find the answers before anything was filed against her.

Byers left the conference room and walked to Mulder. "They said the boy, Bill, is going to be okay. He's in the hospital overnight...nothing too serious, they just want to make sure there's no brain damage. His parents haven't determined yet if they'll press charges."

Mulder nodded. "That's good to hear, that he'll be okay."

Byers shook his head. "We're still in a lot of trouble, she and I both."

Mulder didn't meet his eye. "I'm working on it."

The principal stood to leave, and on his way out caught Mulder's wandering gaze. "You're with the FBI, I hear?"

"I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder," he replied, shaking the older man's hand.

"Jim Nichols," the principal replied. "Do you have any idea what's going on here? We've had five acts of violence in the past three weeks. And from outstanding students, no less!"

Mulder nodded. "So I've heard. This isn't an official FBI case, but I'm looking into it as a personal favor for my friend here," he pointed towards Byers. "I was wondering if I could ask you some questions on the water you've been having shipped in."

"Of course," said Nichols. "After the mono outbreak we had last year, we thought it'd be better to be 'safe than sorry' and ship in chemically purified water from now on."

"That must be pretty costly for a public school."

Nichols smiled. "Fortunately, we have wonderful parent support, as well as government sponsors to help make it possible. And the sick rate has gone down drastically!"

Mulder eyed him grimly. "And your violence rate...how's that?"

Nichols' smile faded. "I...I have some work that needs to be done, if you'll excuse me."

Mulder headed out the office and into the hall, on a mission to find the mysterious water tank he had seen the day before.

FBI Headquarters
5:14 p.m.

Scully looked at the results on the overhead in shock. The lab scientist Agent Bois pointed out the key factors to her.

"As you can see, there's a low to medium level of a type of hallucinogen. I can't make out what it is exactly, it doesn't look like anything I've ever seen before."

Scully frowned. "It's make-up looks similar..."

Bois nodded. "Actually, look at this," he added another sheet to the overhead. "The make-up of this is the complete opposite."

Scully took a closer step to the screen hung from the wall. "What is it?"

"It's an antidote used in violent crimes centers," answered Bois. "It's used to sedate patients with aggressive behavior. It works well; the only problem is it's a new drug and only lasts for a couple of hours. The interesting thing about this is that it leaves no trace of being in the patient's body after being normally passed."

Scully's eyes grew wider. "Would it be possible to create a drug on the other end of the spectrum, one that induces violent behavior for a temporary time and is untraceable?"

Boise thought a moment. "I'd say it is. It would take a crack team to create it...one with unlimited money and resources."

Scully shook the young man's hand. "Thank you, Agent Bois," she said, and headed out the door to call Mulder.

Cedar Grove High School

Mulder opened every door he found, went down every hallway until he finally came across it--the school's utility room. Shoving open the door, he looked around frantically until he saw the main plumbing system. He ran over to it, but the unmarked water tank was nowhere to be found. The only thing he could find was the normal pump system hooked up to the normal tanks of tap water.

Mulder sighed, frustrated. Where had it gone? Just then, a shadow from outside fell across the floor of the underground utility room through a window. Mulder stood on tiptoe and peered out a small ground- level window, just in time to see three Men in Black hauling the water tank into a black, unmarked van.

"HEY!" Mulder yelled, and beat against the window. It was no use. If the unknown men heard him, they didn't pay him any attention. Mulder ran up the stairs and out the side door, but they were already gone, leaving no trace.

Mulder cursed silently, knowing he had let his evidence slip away. Before he could make it back into the building, his cell phone rang.

"Mulder, you were right," Scully said as soon as he picked up. "There are low traces of a new type of hallucinogen in the water; one that causes unexplainable violent behavior for a short time, and is untraceable once passed normally. For the drug to take effect, one would have to drink a large amount of the water, which is why not everyone in the school was affected. Now, I think if we check into it, those six kids consumed the water a few hours prior to their fights."

Mulder's voice was dejected. "No matter what, I just lost our only proof."

FBI Headquarters 8:04 a.m. Three Days Later

Mulder sat in his chair, reading the local paper Byers had sent him from Seat Pleasant. In the corner on the third page was an article debunking the hostility at Cedar Grove High School.

"Food poisoning," he muttered angrily. "'Five counts of violence due to food poisoning.'"

Scully walked in. "I just got done talking with Skinner, he said he'll talk to you later." She shook her head. "He wasn't too pleased with what happened, especially since we have no real proof of something that wasn't even an approved investigation."

Sliding the paper across the desk, Mulder said, "Take a look at this."

Scully read the article and look back and Mulder, bewildered. "The school's blaming this on food poisoning?"

Mulder nodded. "They're re-admitting the five students on accounts of 'temporary insanity induced by unhealthy food.'" "I don't believe this," said Scully. "No one's questioning them?"

Mulder shook his head. "They're back on good ole' fashioned city tap water, but they're thinking about shipping in herbal foods from now on." He rolled his eyes. "The only good thing is Casey's record is safe, along with the four other kids...the class president is still being questioned for the steroids." He paused, and stared Scully straight in the eyes. "I think a bigger group was behind this, Scully...I know it. The school was in on it; I think they were being paid to use that water, and that the government was testing that drug on kids."

Scully frowned. "But why on innocent teenagers, Mulder?"

Mulder exhaled slowly. "Because...no one would give them the benefit of the doubt. Because society would view them as just another one of the 'disturbed children.'"

Scully nodded slowly. The case was over, but they weren't sure they had really won.

Cedar Grove High School 3:20 p.m. The Next Day

Casey Byers hitched up her backpack and made her way out of the school's side door. Street hockey practice had been called off for the week, so everyone could "get back to normal," as her coach had said. Shamefully, she hung her head. Her Uncle Byers had told her Mulder's theory, and she believed it. It still didn't make anything she had done right, though.

She felt someone fall into step beside her. She raised her head, and saw Bill Akely walking next to her. His face was still bruised, and his nose was swollen. Seeing him made Casey feel even more ashamed, and she turned the other way without speaking.

"Hey Casey, wait up!" she heard Bill yell.

"Yeah?" The young girl looked into her friend's eyes expecting to see anger, but perceiving warmth instead.

"Walk me home?" Bill grinned as best he could.

Casey sighed and looked away. "Bill, I'm so sorry for what happened. I'd never-"

"Hey, it's okay," Bill said softly. "It wasn't your fault, I read the news reports."

Knowing that wasn't the real truth, Casey didn't feel any better. "Still though, it doesn't make up for it."

Bill put his arm around her shoulders. "Look, Casey. We've been friends for a couple of months, and I'm not about to let your kicking my ass get in the way of what could be a beautiful relationship."

Casey found herself laughing for the first time in days, knowing that even though he meant those words to be funny, deep down he was being truthful.

She tossed her arm around his shoulders in response. "Okay, Bill. You got it."

Bill stared at the horizon, looking serious. "Just promise me one thing."

"What's that?"

Looking her deep in her eyes, his tone turned romantic. "Next scrimmage, use a plastic hockey stick...just in case."

Casey grinned and shoved him. "I should smack you for that!" She yelled as the two ran off towards home...the past week behind them, the future waiting. Maybe one day, she'd ask him to go UFO watching with her. **

From the high school front office, principal Jim Nichols watched the two students depart. He was glad everything had calmed down, and proud of the way his student body had handled the situation. He smiled to himself; they really were a great bunch of kids, despite the "disturbed children" stereotype.

Squinting through the cigarette smoke and filtered sunlight, Nichols turned to the man sitting across from his desk. "I'm sorry our timeline ran out," he said. "The sick rate had gone down, and we sure appreciated the extra government funding."

The man, who had introduced himself only as a city representative sent to cease the treated water deal, took a long drag on his Morley's-brand cigarette and smiled. "We appreciate the enthusiasm. Of course, this was purely a trial experiment--we pay you to test our chemically-altered water, and you record the school's sick rate."

Nichols laughed. "Sounds like we couldn't lose. I just don't understand how the city profited."

"Some victories go unseen," the cigarette smoking man said as he stood to leave. He stubbed the butt of his Morley's cigarette on the "Thank You For Not Smoking!" sign, complete with retro happy face. "Glad to hear the food poisoning ordeal is over," he commented.

The principal nodded happily. "Yeah, everything's squared away. A few men came in early Monday morning to investigate and found the school food to be the problem. They must have been your guys, because they went ahead and changed the water tanks as well."

The cigarette smoking man smiled. The water tank exchange had taken place on Friday, actually. He nodded to the principal and walked towards the door. "Good to hear they're not really 'disturbed children,'" he said before exiting. But he knew with the help of that new drug...in another place, another situation, the outcome would have been different. He would have won.

Because not everyone would have given those kids the benefit of the doubt.



The End

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