Title: In the Blood
Summary: Mulder and Scully trace a deadly virus back to its source.
This story was started back in February 1995. I was studying epidemiology and found that some of the diseases would make a perfect X-File story. More importantly, those diseases are quite real. The symptoms are real. They're disgusting enough on their own. So why tamper with perfection? If you haven't already, I highly recommend reading Richard Preston's Book The Hot Zone. Even knowing about Ebola beforehand doesn't come close to preparing one against his vivid description of this disease. The truth is out there. It's sometimes gross.
The room is illuminated as the door slams open. A man fills the doorway, clothed in what can only be described as a spacesuit. He stops, survival instinct instilling a temporary belief that he can go no further. He stares at the hospital bed and the shadowy emaciated victim sprawled across it. He then scans the room, the floor, the walls. The filtered rasp of rapid breathing is the only sound. His eyes fill with horror as he views the blood bath the room has become.
Under his breath comes the words, "My God! A crash and bleed!" It's the nightmare they've all been waiting for. "We've got a level four situation here! We have to shut the building down!" he yells into his headset, "DO YOU HEAR ME, Dammit! SHUT IT DOWN! SHUT IT DOWN NOW!"
Eight hours later the room is packed with suited figures holding buckets of Clorox and brushes, scrubbing every part of the room. The bed is gone and, except for a phone, so are all the other items. Lt. Colonel Pat McKnight, the officer in charge of the level four zone at USAMRIID, surveys the work, making sure every potential harm is wiped out.
The head civilian biologist, Samuel Davis, enters the room, awkwardly adjusting his level four suit. "The media is like pack of wolves outside! On top of that, the staff we quarantined is threatening to disrupt our cleanup. We can't have them contaminating the gray zone we've established to this floor of the building. It's the only way to safely exit the hot zone!"
Lt. Colonel McKnight gave a weary smirk, shaking her head. "The doctor and nurses won't do anything. They're frightened. It's understandable. Especially because they know exactly what's happened. As for the media, ignore them. What's happening here is justification enough for not telling them yet."
Just then, another suited figure enters the room. Lt. Colonel McKnight immediately turns her attention to him. "Lt. Clemments, have you found them yet?"
The lieutenant shakes his head in frustration. "Agents Scully and Mulder are still unaccounted for, maUam. I contacted their supervisor, Asst. Director Walter Skinner." Lt. Clemments voice begins to fill with slight condescension, "Apparently, their assignments usually involve investigations outside the normal range of FBI jurisdiction. It seems that the gentleman who died here, William Beckner, had contacted them two days ago about a UFO abduction he had witnessed. My guess is the man was probably already having delusions from the virus. He even said he had proof."
"What proof?" McKnight said, in disbelief.
Shaking his head, the Lt. replied, "The Asst. Director didn't know, but it was enough to get them down here. He has no idea where they are now. They haven't contacted anyone at the Bureau."
Turning away in disgust, McKnight voiced her anger, "We've got two people who witnessed a person crashing and bleeding out from one of the most dangerous diseases ever discovered and you're telling me they are out there, interacting with God knows how many people, looking for little space men! We're rapidly losing control of this thing, gentlemen. There's nearly a hundred percent chance that Mulder and Scully are now carrying that disease. Consider them lost to us. Our main concern is the further spread of this monster."
"What about the note from Agent Scully?" was DavisU quiet suggestion.
Looking down at the floor, she bent to pick up the clear plastic bag containing the note that had been attached to the hospital room's phone. It read: Addressing the Director of the CDC and USAMRIID;
Agent Fox Mulder and I, Agent Dana Scully, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, were fatally exposed to the blood of William Beckner which carried a disease I suspect to be, if not Ebola, then of like result. Being unable to determine the communicability of this contagion we are assuming the worst and taking all necessary precautions. However, due to events inappropriate to disclose at this time, my partner and I are retracing the steps which led William Beckner to this hospital. This is an absolute imperative if we wish to stop the spread of this disease. We suspect his exposure was intentional. There is no time.
We will contact you by this phone number in approximately 12 hours.
Do not attempt to find us. You will not.** Dana Scully, M.D.**Taking a deep breath, Lt. Colonel McKnight stared at the note in cold knowledge. "Agent Scully suspected correctly. They are as good as dead. What could possibly possess them to think they could stop this on their own?"**Just then, the phone rang...
Lt. Colonel Pat McKnight slammed the phone down. "They're insane!"
Davis impatiently confronts McKnight. "What did they say, where are they!"
She looked at Davis, noticing how his faceplate was fogging up. He's sweating... nervous. " You know they're not going to reveal that," she replied walking past him.
McKnight was pensive, biting her lip, clearly thinking of something else about the conversation. As soon as the phone rang, she ordered all the soldiers out of the room. Their voices and the quiet rasp of moving level four suits could be heard coming through the closed door. They were tired and agitated. And with nothing to do for the moment, fear can become a problem. It was about time for a new shift.
Davis, completely losing patience with the silence, exclaims "What did she say, Dammit!"
McKnight was staring into nothing, crossing her arms in the ungainly suit.
Her eyes squinted to slits, "Agent Mulder and Scully are staying in the exact same motel that Beckner stayed in, indeed the very *same* room. They're following his movements exactly. Apparently, to minimize disease transmission as much as possible. They know, at least, that we need to get a grip on all the possible foci of spread. But..."
Letting out her breath in a snort, she shook her head. *Secrets... Damn FBI.* she thought, while acknowledging her hypocrisy.
Out loud to Davis she said, "They were aware that Beckner was losing control of his mind from the disease. Before the final stage set in, they were able to get some very vital information from him. Evidently, he wrote it down. Beckner *knew* what had happened to him and revealed this information to Agent Mulder and Scully." Seeing the expectant look on Davis's face," She still won't reveal what that information is."
But, she was convinced. Something wasn't right. McKnight closed her eyes. Dealing with this disease was enough as it was. *I'm no detective! I'm a glorified military doctor, for Christ's sake!* Frustration was taking control.
"Davis, those agents were given no choice but to be exposed to the virus. They even warned the staff to stay away. Told them the blood was deadly. I mean, they knew they were committing suicide by staying with that man! They could have called us, or the CDC. It's *our* job to follow all the possible ways in which the virus has traveled. Not theirs! Their's *got* to be more to it!"
Davis was incredulous, "Are you telling me you think those two found out something that could actually make this situation *worse* than it already is! Pat, this is ridiculous!" His body was visibly shaking with anger, and fear. "We have got to find them, stick them in USAMRIID's level four 'slammer', and throw away the GODDAMN KEY! Now! While we can still get a grip on this thing! They were crazy to have stayed by that persons side, no matter what he new or what he was suffering from." He pointed to his chest. "I would have left the bastard!"
McKnight, looking away from him, nodded, "Any rational human being would have left. But... Scully's an M.D. We doctors don't think too *rationally* when someone's in pain." With a cold look, she shot home the insult. "It's an instinct you wouldn't understand." *Coward!* Samuel Davis knew diseases better than anyone and he certainly knew it. Sometimes, though, he knew it e too well.
Davis raised an eyebrow and stepped back, conceding. "Did she sound frightened?"
Recalling how the agents voice would sometimes shake, McKnight snapped "She wasn't panicked, if that's what you're thinking. You heard the conversation! You know she asked how long they had. Remember! I said seven days! SEVEN DAMN Days! Then about four days of watching and *feeling* your body rot from the inside out, your ability to think deteriorating as your brain liquefies! The knowledge that by the time you die, you'll be 40 to 50 percent virus! Tell me, Davis, would YOU be scared!" She turned away, frustration now in control.
"Shit-scared." Quietly, Davis walked out the door.
McKnight couldn't believe she actually defended the two doomed agents. *That* was stupid and defeating the purpose. She had to find them...
Still... she couldn't help remembering the things the FBI agent said...
Lt. Colonel McKnight: "We know William Beckner contacted you at the FBI. Agent Scully, has it occurred to you that he may have been acting in delirium?"
Agent Scully: "William Beckner revealed information to us, Lt. Colonel, government intelligence facts that were confirmed and are verifiable. By itself, his knowledge of this information would require investigation."
Lt. Colonel McKnight: "That's not all there was to it."
Agent Scully: "No. The information was secondary. He used it to gain our attention. It was the events associated with these facts that prompted Agent Mulder and I to investigate."
Lt. Colonel McKnight: "We already know this! What were the events, Agent Scully! Was it little green men! For God's sake! Do you know how many lives you are playing with!"
Agent Scully: Ignoring the inane question completely, "Are you aware that William Beckner was an employee of Cmec Technologies?"
Lt. Colonel McKnight: "Cmec Technologies?"
Agent Scully: "Cmec Technologies' single purpose is the research, development, and production of counterintelligence equipment. Its only clients are the CIA," a pause, then quietly," ...and the FBI. It's the most secretive and least known company in the world... and it made over 9 billion dollars in net profit last year alone."
McKnight said nothing. She understood the agent's reservations. Paranoia can become your best friend.
Agent Scully: "Lt. Colonel McKnight, the reason I'm revealing this to you is that, as you will soon discover, Agent Mulder and I will be the *only* ones willing to provide you with the necessary information to find us. When you begin to get close to us, they will no longer cooperate. They will reveal nothing."
Lt. Colonel McKnight: "YOU have told me nothing."
Agent Scully: "You'll see that I have. You'll know the location soon." There was a long silence, McKnight knew something else was coming, "We are counting on your responsibility to find us... when our time comes." There was a cough, to clear her voice, "By then, I pray, our purpose in this situation will have been resolved."
Lt. Colonel McKnight: "I...I just cannot allow this! The CDC isn't capable..."
The phone rang, snapping McKnight out of her reverie.
"McKnight," she said, picking up the phone.
"Hello. This is Special Agent Joseph Webster of the FBI."
Her eyes narrowed, "What do you want? How did you get this number?"
"Did you hear your conversation with Agent Scully clearly, Ma'am?"
"Yes. Did you?"
"Ma'am, you did a very good job of keeping her on the line. Through our trace, we were able to pinpoint their location."
Smiling sardonically, "The CDC needs to send a team there to decontaminate immediately."
"We're sending a team of our agents there as we speak, Lt. Colonel."
"I wouldn't advise that, Agent Webster. Not unless you want to see those agents bleed to death from this virus. There is a level four hot zone in the room they are staying in. *Very* contagious." She was actually enjoying this.
"Um...yes...well. We will detain Agents Mulder and Scully in their room until USAMRIID arrives with the proper equipment. We will inform our agents to hold up a bit until you have cleaned the place. Please try to preserve the integrity of the scene as much as you can. We are conducting an investigation."
"Anything we can do to help." She lied. She new Agent Scully and Mulder would be long gone by the time the other agents got there. *Slick, Agent Scully, very slick... *
"By the way, Agent Webster, where *is* their location?"
"We've been following this procedure for four days now. They're definitely headed west. The FBI can narrow their search and close in on them," said Jeff Heisenberg, Director of the CDC. His team was asked along in a joint effort. No need to ruffle any political feathers.
McKnight didn't mind. Jeff and her husband were old school friends. She liked him. "It's been two days since they last contacted us. They should have contacted us at least 18 hours ago." They were standing in a motel room in their protective suits, by now quite used to them.
"My guess is somebody got close to them. Scared them." Jeff replied.
They were looking around the room as they talked, trying to find anything they might have missed. The room was completely stripped. The FBI wouldn't find any wallpaper, much less any clues.
"What does it matter. We're the dummies in this mess. Cleaning up as we go. We've been damn lucky there hasn't been any other reported cases."
They found another note in Brady, Texas, attached to a motel room phone. "Will contact you at this phone number in 18 hours..." the note read. From there on, the pattern was set. A team of CDC and USAMRIID vehicles, disguised as various courier and telephone company vans, followed where ever the two agents lead them. Stopping every four to five hundred miles, Agents Mulder and Scully stayed in small unremarkable towns with even more unremarkable motels. It was Beckner's way of keeping the disease from spreading. Starting from Brady, Texas, the team followed the agents to Roswell, New Mexico, which also had the same motel message except for a postscript added by the other agent. "No. This isn't it." it said. That was all they had heard from Agent Mulder.
As they stuck to the cleanup operation, the FBI was a constant shadow, noting their every move, taping every conversation. The time intervals between phone calls were getting longer. Agents Scully and Mulder were becoming more afraid.
Now McKnight and her team were stuck in Show Low, Arizona. *An apt name* she thought, staring at the orange polyester curtains covering the motel room window. They were the last thing that needed to be removed from the room. They would be burned. She couldn't wait.
"Beckner could have stayed at better places.," she said.
"He stayed in these dumps to try and stay as far away from populated areas as he could. Remember what Scully said. Beckner knew he had the bug."
She brought her brows together. "This whole thing's going to be moot anyway if the FBI gets to them before they reach the place Beckner originally caught the disease. That asshole Webster couldn't give a damn that they have the virus. AND that they are trying to help us stop it. He wants the agents for different reasons."
"If they get caught, this operation will be all for nothing." she warned.
"Pat, they can't use us, and this disease, as a shield forever. It's clever for awhile, but the black opp guys, or whatever they're calling themselves lately, are going to figure it out. They're going to get caught eventually..."
Voicing her anger, McKnight replied, "Well, goddamnit, we're just gonna have to do everything in our power to see that doesn't happen. I could give a shit about some *secrets* those two agents may know! What good are secrets when we're all dead!"
The phone rang. It was Agent Webster.
"We've got the agents, Lt. Colonel."
She sucked in her breath. "Where?"
"They're trapped in a hotel room in Lathrop Wells, a town just inside the Nevada border to California. I suggest you get here as soon as possible."
The agent sounded abrupt, impatient. *He suspects* she thought. *Oh well, the FBI can't stay stupid forever. They were bound to catch on.*
Not even volunteering the obviously needed information, she asked, "What is the name of the hotel, the room number?..."
Lathrop Wells, Nevada
Agent Joseph Webster is staring at the not so expensive looking hotel. It's a hotel typical of most small towns in America. Functional, yet completely ugly.
He was a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence Division. He was their PR man, and for a department notorious for its dislike of the public, he was exceptionally good at his job. He had an uncanny ability to tell a person to go to hell and make that person feel happy to be on their way. There was an aura of power surrounding him, derived by respect...or fear. He didn't care which as long as it was effective. Of course they'd send a man like him to do a job like this.
He was standing in the middle of the parking lot. Surrounding him were three rental cars filled with agents. His agents. He was intently watching the joint cleanup effort of the CDC and USAMRIID being established just outside of the hotel room the two agents were trapped in. He had been standing there for hours, since the moment the others pulled up.
He did not like it.
He noticed the unmarked cars, the vans and small cargo trucks all with faux company logos emblazoned on their sides. It would have been an unremarkable scene in any large city, but in this small town they stuck out.
He did not like it.
He'd finally caught up with the two rogue agents. They had nowhere to go. He was ordered to take them with extreme prejudice. He didn't question why, but on the other hand, he wasn't going to unnecessarily expose his agents either. He so desperately wanted to get them. They were so close, yet...untouchable.
He did not like it...
McKnight approached the agent with trepidation. He was just standing there looking at the hotel. He had an aggressive stance and a predatory look. He was a player. McKnight knew that dealing with these people could be dangerous.
As he noticed her approaching, he relaxed his face into a friendly smile, teeth flashing white. She knew this game, with all its pretense. He was going to say "nice doggy" until he could find a rock. For now, she'd play along. The information she needed from him was so simple, yet so vital. They wouldn't pull off this crazy plan without it. To find the original host, the plan *had* to work. She recalled her panic upon arriving, at seeing agents parked in front of Agent Scully and Mulder's hotel room like so many hungry wolves at the door...
They had been working feverishly since Webster's phone call to come up with something to free Mulder and Scully. Now they were pulling in to the shoddy hotel. They had a plan. Not a good plan, but it was the best they could think up. This kind of thing wasn't exactly in their job descriptions.
When McKnight saw the agents, she stopped the van. An agent was standing beside his car, staring at them. She stared back. Nevada suddenly felt like the Wild West again.
Letting out her breath in a woosh, McKnight quickly unbuckled her seatbelt. As she preceded to the back of the van, she told Heisenberg to "Put on your happiest happy face and go talk to that agent coming toward us. I've got to figure out how we're going to set this up."
Jeff raised his brow, "Yes, Ma'am."
She shot him a look, "Come on, you know your better at bullshitting than I am."
"Well, what the hell DO I tell him?"
"Tell him we're setting up for decon, business as usual. That's the truth."
"And the bullshit?"
McKnight raised her arms in a shrug. She hated improvisation. "I don't know! Tell them...tell them we're going to prepare the two agents for transport back to USAMRIID. You know he wants them. Be obligatory. Tell him it would be safer to send them to USAMRIID. Protest a little. Just give him a false sense of security. Make him think we're too stupid to pull the stunt we're pulling! And by all means, make him so damn afraid of this disease, and of us, that he won't get close enough to figure out what we're up to."
Seeing that the agent was almost upon them, Jeff replied with a grin, "If your plan is as good as your lying, I hope we don't get shot for treason." He stepped out the van, locking the door behind him...
Now McKnight was standing in front of the agent herself. The evil she perceived from the man made her skin crawl. With a polite smile she said, "We're ready to retrieve the agents now."
"That's great. Did Dr. Heisenberg relay to you that I have orders to take them with us? I'm terribly sorry that we cannot reveal where, but I assure you, they will be sent to a safe place. A place where the virus posses no threat."
Still smiling, she said "Yes, he told me. But what I really need is the description of the two agents. I seems in all this chaos that no one has provided us with the information."
"Why do you need their description?"
*Not an inch* she thought. "For the purpose of transport. You don't *really* think those agents are going to go willingly? We have to tranquilize them and we don't want to use an overdose or an under dosage. Nor are they going to be willingly drugged. We are going to have to physically subdue them. From a tactical perspective, it would be nice to know exactly what we're dealing with," she said with a slight smile.
"I see," he said, scrutinizing her expression. She'd been polygraphed before. This held the same nervousness.
He turned and walked to another agent sitting in one of the rentals. He said something she couldn't make out. When he turned around, he was holding a yellow folder.
"This holds vital stats and a basic description of Agent Mulder and Agent Scully. I do hope you will return it as soon as possible." He handed over the file with a smile. "We wouldn't want to hurt the agents unnecessarily. They are in enough pain."
"I'm sure. Thank you," she said gripping the file with white knuckles. She nodded and quickly walked away, wanting to put as much distance between her and the odious man...
"Damn! She *would* have to be short!" McKnight muttered, looking down at the file on Agent Scully.
Hearing the outburst, Jeff chuckled, "Too tall, are ya?" Expecting the glare he got from her, he added, "Look, you know you can't go in anyway. You're too vital out here, Bosslady."
They were standing in the parking lot surrounded by equipment vans. A gray area, to decontaminate the soldiers when exiting the hot zone in the hotel room, had been set up in one of the vans. A cornered off area had been sent from it to the hotel room door. The two dozen personnel, military and civilian, were still busying themselves with final preparations. Fifty yards away were the ever watchful agents with agendas so different from their own, or any other human being. Most of McKnight's people were suited, ready to be zipped up in their personal cocoons, ready to do battle. Surrounding them were small office buildings, a storage facility, and the desert that trailed off behind the hotel. A recent spring rain had brought a bloom to the aridness of the place. It was sunny...peaceful. Squinting up at the early afternoon sun, McKnight noted the incongruity of the scene. Two hours before, the neon sign in front began to blink no vacancy.
"So...who do you think should go in?" she asked with censure, looking at the soldiers busily walking about. Her soldiers. They were so young. She hated to put them in danger. But they knew as well as she, of all the lives that were at stake. It was their duty, something they volunteered for. In the last few days they had made very few mistakes, none of which were crucial. She was proud of them.
"How about Geller?" Jeff said, pointing to a rather petite female valiantly trying to move a half-full 55 gallon drum of chemicals off the fork lift she was operating.
Shaking her head, McKnight wondered how she got it on the fork lift in the first place. "Private Geller? She's barely nineteen! Besides, her hair is brownish blonde, not red," she said, pointing out the obvious.
Pointing out another obvious, Jeff replied, "Their suits will cover all that. And so what if she's nineteen. She can handle it. They all can. They have seen in the last few days what most biologists and chemists see in an entire lifetime."
"OK. OK. We'll ask her."
"You know she'll do it."
Nodding in agreement, "So what about our mystery agent Mulder? It will have to be somebody tall."
Just then, another suited figure walked up to Private Geller and began, or tried to begin, to help her move the huge barrel. McKnight and Heisenberg watched with interest. The little female immediately shot the other tall soldier a this-is-mine-go-to-hell look. McKnight commented, "I often give my husband that look when he tries to help me open a new jelly jar." The other soldier stopped and crossed his arms in a fine-go-ahead stance. Two minutes later, the barrel still hadn't budged. Jeff replied, "But, d id he open the jelly jar?" Both were still watching the episode. McKnight shot him a this-is-mine-go-to-hell look and said, "That's not the point." Jeff said nothing. He wasn't going to touch it. Meanwhile, both soldiers were facing off. Private Geller then raised her hands in defeat. The other soldier gave a big smile and began to tackle the barrel. He moved it...about three inches. It was Geller's turn to smile. There was another face off before they began to move the drum together. It took them no time at all to move it. "You see," McKnight said, "It was after I'd been tugging on the jar for ten minutes. My husband would come in for that one quick jerk and grab all the glory."
Jeff just looked at her. "I'm never getting married."
"He looks about six feet tall."
"Sergeant Wish, isn't it?"
"Yes, Sergeant Michael Wish and Private Sandra Geller. They'll do." She turned away, shaking her head, "Listen to me! I sound just like that bastard Webster over there!"
Jeff was still looking at the two younger people. "Pat, look at this."
She turned to look. They were smiling and talking. The two soldiers were working together as if the last ten minutes of arguing never happened. Ironic.
"Can they handle this, Jeff?"
"Yes!" he said, exasperated.
"All right. Lets call everyone together. They all have to be updated on the plan. We'll tell Geller and Wish first in private. To give them the chance to back out."
"They're not going to."
"I know. I know. But still...If this switch doesn't work, we're screwed."
"The trick will be to not scare those agents into doing something drastic. Like they aren't already scared out of their minds. Yet we still have to make it look like we are conducting a "raid" for the benefit of the bad guys," he said, pointing to Webster and his agents.
"We're waiting till dark. Agent Webster will be easily convinced that it will be simpler and safer to take them in the dark. It will also be more difficult for him to see what we're up to. I need you to go and convince him of this."
"What, again! Aren't tactics your department? Shouldn't you speak to him?"
"Oh bullshit! Just go and talk to him, all right?"
"All right." He then pointed to her chest and said, "But you're going to be the one to talk to him when he realizes what we've done! Not me!"
"You're scared of him?"
"Damn right!" he replied, walking off, "But, I'm more afraid of this virus...and you!"
"Should we be doing this? They *are* terminal. I mean...I know what *I'd* be doing if I knew I was going to die in a few days." Sergeant Michael Wish stopped suddenly," Maybe we should leave 'em alone."
"Is that all you think about?" blurted Private Sandra Geller and gave him a little shove.
It was dark. It was time. They were slowly making their way down the sidewalk leading up to and running along the front of the many hotel room doors. They knew exactly which room it was, yet they were still glancing at the door numbers. For some reason their brains had frozen to the unnecessary thought. *...86...room 86...* They were terribly aware of the many eyes watching their every move. They walked very cautiously. Sweat was already pouring down their bodies, their faceplates were fogging up. The suits were unbearably hot. They were awkwardly carrying between them a large cardboard biohazard container. Presumably it was to carry out any infected items belonging to Agents Mulder and Scully, and maybe some of their blood too. In actuality, it was carrying two level four suits, just like their own. Strapped to the side of each suit was a tranquilizer gun. Both were unloaded. The box was heavy, it was hard acting like it wasn't.
"Actually, right now, Geller, all I can think about is how much my nose itches." Sergeant Wish said, wiggling his nose. He was trying to distract the private from her nervousness. She was a few years younger and he was a little less green about this stuff. It was the perfect excuse to hide his own nervousness.
Hearing her exhalation of breath through his earphone, Wish said, "You sure about this? You can still back out."
"No." was the terse reply. Private Sandra Geller took her orders very seriously, as she did most things. Her attitude was severe, in stark contrast to Sergeant Wish's personality. She wanted to make an impression, to make a good start on her career in the military. This is what she wanted to do, as did Wish. She knew too that he was intensionally baiting her. She was constantly incensed by his irreverence of, well...everything! Wish was a great guy when he wasn't reminding her that he outranked her. When he was reminding her, however, he generally pissed her off. Like now for instance.
"You heard Lt. Colonel. She's short. I'm short. Who else is gonna do this?" Her lips did a sharp downturn. "God! Sometimes I hate being short!"
"I like short. Makes me look tall."
"You are tall."
"Oh yeah." Wish said with a Grand Canyon grin.
There was a short silence. *...78...79...*
"So...You like pasta?"
"You're talking about food now?"
"Well, if I'm going to take you out, I might as well know what you like to eat." *...82...83...*
They placed themselves on either side of the door, the biocontainment box between them. It was an ineffectual tactic. They were unarmed. They raised their useless tranquilizer guns. This had to look good, look real.
They stared at each other.
"Are you ready?" he whispered.
She nodded yes and said no.
"Look, if this doesn't feel right..."
She impatiently waved him off. "Let's get this the hell over with!"
The door burst open. The two soldiers leapt into the room.
Light streamed into their night adjusted eyes.
"DROP IT! PUT YOUR HANDS UP!"
The shouts came rapid-fire from shadowed figures crouching behind lamp lights. The light had been directed toward the two soldiers, blinding them. All they could clearly discern were the two guns being pointed at them over lampshades.
Geller and Wish immediately raised their arms, forgetting the show they were to perform. On reflex, Sergeant Wish dropped his gun. Private Geller had a death grip on hers. Had it been loaded, the ceiling would have been tranquilized. Like a deer in headlights, they were frozen in terror.
The two shadowy agents were on either side of the room in defensive positions, one behind a bedstand, the other behind a desk. After a long moment, the agent behind the bedstand stood up. The other slowly rose as well.
The two soldiers struck an almost comical pose. Both were wearing baggy biocontainment suits. Their arms were raised in the air. One was tall. One was short. Beads of condensed sweat were dripping down the insides of their faceplates. Their eyes were open wide. They were nearly shaking. It was obvious they were terrified.
"Who are you!?" the male agent, Mulder, quickly shouted. He was still an outline in the dark. The gun in his hand still very visible.
Private Geller jerked at the sudden shout. The soldier's fright, and youth, were clearly discerned in the light. Very quickly, Sergeant Wish tripped out the well rehearsed words, "This is Private Sandra Geller. I am Sergeant Michael Wish. W...We are here to inform you of the current situation and direct you on the proper course of action."
"Proper course of...On who's authority!" Agent Mulder took a menacing step forward, the gun in his hand becoming even more visible.
The other agent slowly lowered her handgun. Agent Scully, putting a calming hand on Agent Mulder's arm, stepped forward into the light. Wish and Geller stared, transfixed, as Scully walked closer, scrutinizing them just as closely. The two soldiers saw dark circles under the agent's eyes. Her lips were pale. Fatigue was etched into her face. She was petite, just as they said, and except for the gun she was holding, not very threatening. However, they noticed this only secondarily, noticed the woman only secondarily. This person was walking virus. All they really saw was death coming toward them.
Unconsciously, both soldiers visibly reared back.
Noting this, Agent Scully halted and said quietly, "Who is your commanding officer?"
By now, both agents realized the frightened young soldiers posed no real threat.
Looking at the other agent, who had also lowered his gun and was cautiously stepping forward, Sergeant Wish blurted, "Lt. Colonel Patricia McKnight of the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Disease..."
"You wouldn't happen to have a twinkie on you?"
"Mulder, you don't eat twinkies." Scully smiled secretly.
"Yeah, well, I always thought there'd be time. You know..." He gave Scully a pointed look," for the little things."
Not knowing of Agent Mulder's penchant for dry wit in bad situations, both soldiers glanced at each other questioningly. Both were sitting on the end of one bed with their hands in their lap, incongruous in their protective suits. They were mostly quiet as they watched the two agents move about the room. Wish and Geller were clearly uncomfortable. Both agents were preparing to carry out the plan set by Lt. Colonel McKnight. It had been about twenty minutes ago that the two soldiers had burst into the hotel room. Their orders were to inform Agent Scully and Mulder of the plan, then wait approximately forty minutes. In the mean time, Agents Scully and Mulder were to put on the extra biocontainment suits. At the appropriate time, they will walk out, leaving the two soldiers behind.
Looking around, Wish noted various types of fastfood wrappers strewn about.
"I feel traitorous to my profession for saying this, but I'm really sick of drive-thru food." Clearly trying to put the nervous soldiers at ease, Mulder was sitting back in a chair, only glancing at them from time to time. The agent looked terrible. He was unshaven and his eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep. Unbeknownst to the two, he noted everything.
It was time to dawn the suits. Mulder shouted through the bathroom door at Scully. "It's not fare, Scully. You got your Bar-BQ. I want my twinkie."
"They don't have drive-thrus for twinkies I'm afraid." was Scully's muffled reply.
"Not even for a dying man?"
Private Geller began to suspect they were not talking about twinkies.
The thought reminded her of something.
"Yes," she said. It was the first time she had talked since being in the hotel room.
Surprised, Wish replied, "Yes, what?"
"Yes, I like pasta."
Puzzled at first, Sergeant Wish suddenly smiled. "Great. I know this pasta place not far from the base..."
On hearing this, Agent Mulder leaned forward, "Hey, show a little sympathy for a dying man, Sergeant."
Agent Scully walked out of the bathroom wearing a suit. She immediately sent Mulder one of her what-are-you-up-to looks. Geller started to helped her zip up and then began to seal the suit with duct tape.
Seeing Sergeant Wish's puzzled look at his statement, Mulder cast a keen look at Scully while he said quietly so only Wish could hear, "I'm not getting my twinkie, so I don't want to hear about your pasta."
Wish looked at Scully. He looked at Geller. Then he looked at Scully again.
In recognition, he returned Mulder's devil smile.
"Sir, it's been three and a half hours. How long should it take to prepare two sick people for travel?"
Webster glanced at his agent. He said nothing, but continued to stare intently at the USAMRIID operation not 150 feet away.
"You don't think they're actually going to try something, do you, Sir?" the subordinate said incredulously.
"No, Agent Crowely."
Webster then turned fully to the agent. Crowely, and his partner next to him, took a step back.
Webster's look was deadly.
"The two agents are already gone."
Realizing he was cowering, Agent Crowely took a cautious step forward. "How!?"
"I could give a good goddamn about HOW they did it. I need to know when."
Webster never once raised his voice. Somehow, he sounded more pissed off because of it.
Webster looked back at the soldiers milling about, looking busy. *The farce!* he thought.
"I need to know what kind of lead they have on us."
Suddenly, his eyes narrowed.
"Damn!" he said to himself.
He remembered a moment. It was the perfect moment...
He remembered staring intently at the hotel room. He didn't have a good view. It was far away and his view of the doorway was blocked. The two soldier sent to "negotiate" with the rogue agents had entered the room some forty-five minutes before. When they had first entered, he had heard a few muffled shouts, then silence. He had heard no shots fired. They were probably trying to reason with Agents Mulder and Scully. Stupid. How could they possibly think they would go willingly?
He noticed movement among the Lt. Colonel's troops.
They were coming out.
Webster saw Lt. Colonel McKnight and her CDC friend step quickly into a large van. She had said it was the gray area to clean up from the hot zone.
Just then, the two soldiers sent in to the hotel room became visible. They were carrying the same materials they had walked in with. The tall one in charge gave a thumbs up. The negotiations must have gone well. The short one was holding on to the box with both hands. Apparently, they had something in it. Some personal items and maybe the blood samples the Lt. Colonel had said she wanted before she would give the infected agents up. The box was too small for anything else. The tall one grabbed one end of the box to help carry it. They made their way slowly to the van and then entered it.
For many minutes there was quite a lot of movement, especially around the van and also near the hotel room. Just when Webster was beginning to lose patience, the Lt. Colonel exited the van, unzipping the top portion of her suit as she approached him. She stopped about ten feet away.
"Please excuse me if I don't get any closer." Pointing a thumb at the hotel room, she said, "I've just been handling some of their personal items. Hot stuff." Most of the agent's eyes widened. None stepped closer.
The Lt. Colonel took a big breath. "We've got what we wanted basically, Agent Webster. We will begin preparing the agents for transport to wherever you want to take them."
As she spoke this, the van she had just exited started up. The two soldiers sent in to the hotel room were in the driver and passenger seat, still suited.
"Where are they going?" Agent Webster said as the van drove off.
"To get those samples back to USAMRIID. Due to the volatile nature of the samples they are transporting, I have asked that my soldiers remain suited until they reach the prearranged destination. From there, the samples will be flown back to my headquarters."
"And what of the agents?"
Lt. Colonel McKnight took a deep breath.
"Well, they're not so good. They are both extremely fatigued, not having slept in the last 72 hours at least. They acquiesced fairly readily to my soldiers."
Webster cocked his head at this. "That seems rather sudden..."
"Yes, I agree. They said that they were tired of running and got sloppy."
At this, Webster gave a cunning smile. Seeing it, McKnight continued, "Anyway, we were able to convince them that we could handle the clean up from here on." Then she smiled, "After all, this is our job."
"But still, Lt. Colonel, don't you think they gave in too..."
"You see those soldiers over there?" she asked pointing to the figures standing in front of the hotel room. There were five soldiers, two with what appeared to be tranquilizer guns, three with M-16s. They were obviously posted as guards. She stared at Webster unblinking, "Believe me, Agent Webster, I would have taken them one way or another. But, if I can avoid any ugliness, I certainly will. The last thing we need is this virus splattered about. If anything covert is attempted, I will know about it. Don't worry."
Agent Webster scowled at her, insulted by her patronizing tone. "I'm paid to worry, Lt. Colonel. I won't feel remotely comfortable until they are in my hands." He pulled his cell phone from his coat pocket and began to dial. Even he had to report to someone. *He just wished the bastard would hurry up and die of lung cancer.* he thought with hatred. As the phone rang in his ear, he said to McKnight, "So how long will this take exactly?"
"At least another couple hours. We will inform you when they are ready to come out. We will brief two of your agents on proper containment procedure and then a van will be given to you to contain the virus...and the agents."
This really pissed him off. Sarcastically he said, "Do I get to pick which agent?"
Before McKnight could answer, Agent Webster suddenly turned away form her, "Yes. This is Agent Webster, Sir. No. No. Not yet..."
McKnight smiled slightly and walked away...
*That was two and a half hours ago*
"GODDAMNIT!" Webster shouted.
*One soldier was short. One was tall.*
*My soldiers remain suited until they reach the prearranged destination.*
*If anything covert is attempted, I will know about it.*
"That BITCH!" Webster slammed his fist on the hood, them leaned against it, staring blankly into the desert.
Webster looked up at his agent and quickly noticed that McKnight had approached unnoticed by him.
She was out of her protective suit, wearing only regulation Army fatigues. There were seven soldiers standing behind her, all in fatigues as well...and carrying M-16s. Her arms were crossed.
She was smiling smugly.
"I know what you're thinking, but its too late," she said," They are already half way there. It will take you at least another two hours to find them, considering that there are probably about 100 or so other brown vans with globes on the side within a 400 hundred mile radius. That is all the time they need, Webster."
He never before wanted to kill someone so much. He approached her, more cautiously when M-16s were suddenly pointed at his chest.
He looked disgusted. "What I cannot understand, Lt. Colonel, is why you are helping those agents in the first place. You just let them go."
She looked over at the hotel. "Agent Webster, it's the same reason that kept you from going up to that room unprotected and on your own,... Fear... Survival."
She walked right up to him, her face not a foot from his. She did not blink.
"Only... My fear is for all the unsuspecting lives being threatened. Not for myself and not for some damned little SECRET!" she spat. Getting even closer, she menanced, "Let's get this straight, Webster. Put your little game away. I've played it, too often. It DOESN'T belong here."
Appearing to ignore her, Agent Webster stepped back and began to turn away.
At that, she said lightly, "That tactic won't work, little man. Don't screw with me. That LAST thing I am right now is afraid of you."
She turned around to face her soldiers. "You boys baby-sit these bastards while we pack up."
It was her turn to walk away. She did so effectively.
She knew, as well, that she had made a dangerous enemy that day.
Somewhere in Chinatown
Mulder and Scully entered the vestibule-like room of a small nondescript thrift store. Window-shades were firmly drawn. The darkness of the room was in stark contrast to the bright spring day outside. Looking around, they noticed every imaginable item, from scented soap to CD players. All were tagged with prices in Chinese. Everything had a layer of dust over it. It was quickly apparent to the two agents that the pawn shop wasn't the store owners primary business.
This was their final destination. The place where Beckner caught the virus.
A Chinese man immediately entered through an open door at the back of the room. He walked behind the small counter as if to seek protection from the obvious strangers. Looking through the open doorway, Mulder noticed another door, locked, at the back wall of the large dimly lit storage room.
When Scully flashed her badge, the elderly man immediately started ranting in broken English, "Not my Fault! Not my Fault! Not know! Not know anything!"
Raising her hand as she put her badge away, Scully tried to calm the man, "Hold on a minute, Sir. We're not going to arrest anybody. We're just trying to get some information. OK?"
The man slightly nodded his head as he glanced at Mulder, who was closely scrutinizing objects along the wall as he inched his way toward the back door. To distract the man away from Mulder, Scully asked questions about William Beckner to which the man adamantly denied knowing anything about. This subterfuge wasn't going to work, however, when one stuck out as much as Mulder did at the moment.
When the store owner realized where Mulder was going he became very agitated. "You don't go there. I have rights! You go away now!" He began cursing in Chinese and started moving from behind the counter.
Mulder lost all patience. "Scully, keep him there. I want to see what's behind door number one," he said as he walked through the back room toward the padlocked door.
Seeing this, the Chinese man began yelling "NO! NO! NO! VERY BAD!..." and tried to approach the back door.
Scully pulled her pistol. The man stopped, eyes fixed on the handgun. She didn't want to see him infected with whatever was in that room, with whatever was in her. "You will stay away, Sir." Clearly terrified, he shook his head and got back behind the counter. With trepidation, Scully noticed that he quickly wrapped a cloth around the lower part of his face.
"Scully, can you get the key from him? This lock looks pretty tough." Mulder yelled from the back. "No, Wait! I got it," he said as he spied an axe leaning against the wall.
"Mulder, I think this man was informed by Beckner about what happened."
Mulder looked back at the man, noticing the rag covering the lower part of his face. He exchanged a knowing look with Scully. He turned and hacked at the door and then slowly pushed it open.
He saw a dark room filled with cages. There were many exotic birds. He guessed they were illegally sent here. Black market. Was Beckner looking for exotic pets?
In the middle of the small room were two dead monkeys. Blood was everywhere, in the cages, on the walls. This was ground zero.
Mulder stomped back to the front and demanded to the smaller man, "Did you go back there! Did you touch ANYTHING!"
"No! No! I lock door. Make everyone stay away! He said cause very bad sick! Die!" The man was clearly panicked.
"We know, Sir. Just stay back as far as you can, all right?" Scully said calmly.
The man nodded nervously.
Mulder entered the back room again, giving it a closer inspection. He discovered a video cassette, spattered with blood, taped to the back of one monkey cage. On its label was the logo for Cmec Technologies. He ran to the front room and, ignoring the two others, began to frantically grab items from shelves.
Having no idea why Mulder had a sudden desire for VCR equipment, Scully asked the obvious, "Mulder, what are you doing?"
"He left a tape, Scully." Holding it so she could see the logo, he said again, "Beckner left us a tape. PROOF!"
After spending a moment to figure out which cable went where, Mulder then pushed in the cassette. As the tape began to play, they both became riveted to the small television screen. What they had was essentially an advertisement for a new product by Cmec Technologies. Its intended audience was obvious.
"Not even the Intelligence Division of the FBI can escape infomercials, Scully."
On the screen flashed scenes of little lab rooms, very large lab rooms, technicians in sparse white coats, and cubicles with the latest computer technology. Everything was enhanced by sharp high-end graphic design and a narrator that sounded suspiciously like a well-known network anchor. He was expounding the virtues of the new product, but said nothing beyond vague capabilities.
Seeing lab techs carrying vials and syringes of various shapes and sizes, Mulder suggested, "A chemical of some sort?"
"Hmmm, a drug perhaps. But, why are they being ambiguous? Why not just say what it is?"
Searching for anything that would give them a clue as to what the product was, Mulder nodded his head toward the screen, "Give it a chance." Giving her a quick glance, he said, "But the real question is, Scully - what's the connection?"
"Yes... Why us?"
Losing patience, Mulder hit the fast forward.
Smirking, Scully asked, "What happened to give it a chance?"
Shaking his head, he said, "I'm tired of trying to figure out what's going on. Beckner made us go through all this crap. He wouldn't try to hide it from us now. It's probably toward..."
"Mulder, stop! Rewind it..." Mulder hit the rewind. All he saw were silvery lab rooms in fast motion flybys. "There!"
"What, Scully. It's the same lab room from the beginning..."
"No it isn't. See the silver doors?"
Eight shiny metal doors spanning floor to ceiling covered an entire wall of the large lab room. There were several autopsy tables and it suddenly hit Mulder what the room was.
"A forensic lab."
"Not like the other laboratories."
"You would know. Why would they need a forensic lab, or medical examiner for that matter?"
Scully pointed to a "lab tech" that entered the room. "Watch."
The metal doors were opened. Slowly, one by one, the drawers are slid open, revealing body after body in various states of dissection. Even with the quick pan of the camera, Scully could tell their anatomy was all wrong.
"Mulder, those aren't human."
"Really, Doctor. How did I miss it?" As Mulder rewound the section of tape over and over, his eyes stopped blinking he was so transfixed. "My God, Scully, this is amazing!"
The narrator's absurd dialogue was a running stream as the images of alien bodies flashed across the screen. Statements such as "Through our research on non-terrestrial bio-genetics, we were able to develop products that will allow for the creation of more efficient agents and improve the fighting capacity of the combat soldier. The governments down-sizing of the military will necessitate the creation of a more efficient defense force. Our products will give you that ability." The scene immediately switched to another room where scientists were doing various experiments. Mulder and Scully began to realize that all the chemicals and unknown organic tissues they had been seeing were not of human origin, were not even of Earth. Alien...
After awhile, the tape suddenly and haphazardly ended.
Mulder stopped it, commenting, "Beckner must have copied only what he wanted us to see. Couldn't spill *all* the beans."
"Yes, but, we never found out what they are making."
"Scully, you're getting as jaded as I am. Aren't little green men enough anymore?" Mulder was staring down at the black screen, eyes squinting slightly in thought. "You mentioned ambiguity. Maybe it is the very ambiguity of the tape that we should take into account. I mean," he gestured toward the television, "did you notice how the man was talking as they panned over the alien bodies? He could have been talking about seagulls for all the significance he placed upon the content. Those were extra terrestria ls and they treated it as though..."
"As though they've done it a million times," she said.
Scully gave him that look that never failed to raise the hairs on the back of his neck. He was already aware of the possibility that the government had been running, or at least paying for, research on extraterrestrials and that it had been going on for perhaps decades. But, to have the notion confirmed by Scully... It was a reality he was not quite prepared for. "The tape was clean, concise, and to the point. Cmec Technologies fully acknowledges the fact that the potential buyers care not how the product was made, but only that it works!" Dropping down on the first thing he could find, a stool, Mulder let out a big breath and began to rub between his eyes.
"You have a headache," Scully said, alarmed and very conscious of the fact that a headache is the first sign of the virus.
Knowing the alarm in the calm voice, Mulder smiled dryly, "I'm not going to fall down bleeding anytime soon, Scully." He stood up, anxious with impatience, "This is the reverse engineering that I've told you about. But on a biological and genetic level. It's a perfect example of why the government would go to such great lengths to hide the fact that they have discovered extraterrestrials. Our government is VERY effective at hiding something when it thinks there is sufficient reason." Fox spoke closely and softly to Dana, trying to make her understand, "To discover such technology, and utilize it, is a power too precious to share."
Mulder stood up straight. "That was easy," he said it as a question. She never gave up that easy, even in damning conditions. In fact, he recalled, she usually became worse. "What."
"This tape, at its best, shows only the tiniest glimpses of the process with which they created the products they claim to have produced. The views of the bodies are almost insubstantial."
*Here we go again* she thought. In his overwhelming enthusiasm to find the truth, he never failed to forget the proof. She let out a big breath, "Mulder you know as well as I do that this tape cannot be used as proof. It's completely circumstantial!" Seeing the pout coming, "Tapes can be faked, Mulder."
Gritting his teeth, "YOU know as well as I do that this is real! We have the CDC and the entire bad-guy division of the FBI on our ASS!"
"Are you forgetting the dead man, the virus, and the fact that we left for this assignment without telling anyone? The trouble the FBI is going through to get to us can be more than justified by other reasons, Mulder." She spoke with no animation. She could have been talking about the weather. "Who would believe us."
Mulder wasn't even going to try. "You do realize they killed him, don't you?"
Scully's face questioned.
"Beckner. They assassinated him." Seeing her eyebrows go up., he said, "Oh, you don't think the virus and this tape are completely unconnected do you? Come on, Scully, you know better than that. Why else would he be dead. He was a tattletale."
She was so flabbergasted, she couldn't even get the question out right, "But, you can't... That's absurd, Mulder!... A virus!... It could kill so... For God's sake's! Why not just shoot him!" she yelled finally.
"There are many reasons..."
"Why would they RISK killing so many people?"
At that question he gave her the I-know-everything-you're-so-naive look which always pissed her off. "Because they didn't. That's just it."
"They didn't." She blinked, "Wait. Are you saying that this isn't a virus? How could you possibly know..."
"It is a virus. But a virus just for Beckner."
When she realized what he meant, she smirked in disbelief, "Are you trying to say that they made a ... Forget it, Mulder. We don't have time for this. WE don't know what this is and we have a responsibility to keep it from spreading." She hit the eject button, yanked out the tape and held it up to him. "None of this is worth dying over!" She was tired, angry, and afraid. "We are going to die. Now you'll never find your sister. Is it worth it, Mulder?"
Mulder shook his head, smiling slightly, and said enigmatically "I don't know why I bother, Scully." Still smiling, he grabbed the tape from her. "I don't know if you realized this, Doctor, but we can't use the tape anyway."
"It's covered in blood - *bad* blood," he said with a smirk. "If we're to be responsible FBI agents, then we have to take this tape and burn it. I was thinking of making it a part of my video collection, but we can't have any CDC people looking at it. Can't have anyone else infected, either." Looking down at the tape, he gave a big mocking sigh. "Seems it was all for nothing, Scully." He knew all along the tape was useless as evidence. That wasn't the point. He had thought he was going to die. Now he knew he wasn't. More than anything else, it was his intuition that told him that. And he believed in his intuition more than he believed in most of Scully's "truths". He felt better.
Scully felt worse. Mulder knew something and wasn't going to share it with her. *Probably because I wouldn't believe it* she thought. "OK. We will call the CDC and give them this location. We'll turn ourselves in as soon as we burn the tape." She let out a huge breath, too tired to think. "Hopefully, no one else will have caught the virus."
Seeing the pathetic look on her face, Mulder patted her shoulder, "Come on, cheer up. Everything will be all right."
She was not convinced.
Near Muir Woods National Monument
McKnight stared at the brown delivery truck from the safety of her own unmarked van. Both she and Lt. Clemments, in the passenger seat, had been sitting for ten minutes, watching the front of the vehicle, waiting for everyone to get in position. It was early morning. The parking lot was relatively secluded and quiet this early in the morning. *At least they picked a pretty spot*, she thought inanely. They wouldn't have to worry about any unwanted visitors. Thinking of unwanted visitors, she glanced over at the FBI agents at the edge of the parking lot's perimeter. She could see some were holding rifles and even shotguns. She snickered at that. *Like that was going to keep it away.* She didn't care just as long as they stayed out of the way. And God forbid any of them got the idea to shoot the two infected agents.
As she and Clemments exited the van, she gave the signal for everyone to move toward the two agents. She had told Agents Scully and Mulder, over loudspeaker, to stay in their vehicle until she had her people and equipment in position. She was going to transport the agents in biocontainment modules back to USAMRIID. However, the placement of infected individuals into the modules could be a bit tricky. She was making sure everything was done by the book as much as possible. This was the final clean up. They couldn't afford to become sloppy. She glanced at Lt. Clemments, making sure that ducttape was in all the proper places.
As they got closer, they began to notice slight movement in the front of the van.
"I think they're... arguing." Clemments said with a question on his face.
Seeing the unexpected behavior herself, McKnight shrugged in her suit.
When she stopped, ten suited figures stopped as well, forming a semicircle around the van approximately 30 feet distance. There were two containment modules manned each by two soldiers. McKnight took a deep breath and raised her hand, giving the agents the signal to exit the van.
"...I NEVER said you were stupid! You need some sleep, Scully!!" yelled Agent Fox Mulder, looking like a veteran vagrant as he stepped from the van. So intent was he on the argument in progress, that he seemed almost oblivious to the suited people around him.
"You are displaying the typical denial of a terminal patient!" Red-faced with rage, Scully stomped around to the front of the van to face Mulder, completely oblivious of the audience. "We are going to DIE!!"
"No we're not. And I'm never typical," Mulder said, giving the suited figure a few feet from him, which happened to be Lt. Colonel McKnight, a quick glance of acknowledgment.
"You know what, Mulder, you're a real..." Hearing the cough coming from a suited person several feet to her right, realization of her surroundings hit. She slowly closed her mouth. She and Mulder turned to face McKnight.
"The procedure is very simple," said McKnight, choosing to ignore the disagreement the two agents were having. That was their business. "Before entering the modules, you will be sprayed with a disinfectant. Hopefully, the virus doesn't exist very well outside bodily fluids. You will leave all clothing articles on until you enter the module so they may be disinfected. When you are placed into the module, you will remove all outside clothing and personal items except for your underwear."
"That's comforting," said Mulder, under his breath.
McKnight looked at Mulder, not missing a beat. "Your underwear is the most likely area to contain the virus. Simply remain passive so we may properly move you into the module. Once inside, we will relay instructions as we go. Any questions?"
"No." Scully answered quietly. Mulder shook his head.
"OK." McKnight spared a quick glance at the FBI agents standing ineffectually in the distance. For some reason, they weren't causing any disruptions. That was fine with her. She didn't have the time to analyze it. "All right people! You know what to do! Let's MOVE!"
The two soldiers that were standing by the containment modules went up to Mulder and grabbed him by the arms, urging him quickly as they dared toward the large clear box. In their obvious fear, the two soldiers were being unnecessarily rough. To Mulder, the module resembled a glass coffin.
He had his first doubt. For a second, Fox Mulder gave into the thought that he was going to die of this virus. It was an inkling of the terror of certain death that he knew Dana was feeling. He looked quickly over at her. She looked like a person trying to hold down vomit.
As two others began to spray the disinfectant over him, Mulder, eyes stinging, yanked free. He ran up to Scully who had her eyes firmly closed against the spray and shoved the suited figures away from her.
"Look at me, Dana," he said quietly, gently grabbing her by the arms.
She opened her eyes, saying nothing.
"You trust me," he said unnecessarily.
"We are not going to die." He calmed his face, willing her to understand how he felt.
She stared directly into his eyes for a moment. She nodded.
He softly moved one thumb down the side of her face giving her a rare smile. It seemed they had held each other a million times over the last few days. But, for some reason, subtlety worked better with them. She finally felt better.
Grabbing his arm, a soldier told Mulder, "Sir, you must come with me. We can't risk containment by not following procedure."
Letting go of Scully, Mulder was led to his module.
When Scully was placed into the clear box, she quickly glanced over at Mulder. He was too long for the module and was trying to get comfortable in the cramped space. Shaking her head at the comical scene, she was half convinced he was doing it for her benefit. That was the half that believed they were dying.
The other half told her to believe him. And that was the half that believed if anything out there was paranormal, it was Fox Mulder...
"What do the medical records say?" asked Colonel Herald Jacobs.
McKnight handed him a thick folder.
Lt. Colonel McKnight and Colonel Herald Jacobs, the current executive officer at USAMRIID, were standing in an observation lab. The room had a four by eight foot window constructed of four inch thick plexiglass. It looked directly into the deepest bowels of level four biocontainment. They were staring through the window at what was traditionally known to all the scientists as the Slammer. Individuals who were known to be carrying a level four virus would be sent here. Its only real purpose was to keep a deadly disease from spreading to other human beings. Visitors were treated to sparse white walls, a single bed with padding even on the headboard, a metal sink and a toilet. Every other necessity was provided.
Patients who entered here were not expected to recover.
Sitting on the bed in the Slammer was Fox Mulder, his back against the wall. In the harsh white light he looked pale and gaunt. Because no sharp object of any kind was allowed, he had grown a full beard. For the past week he had not been able to stop scratching and pulling at it. There seemed to be a spot, directly in front of him, that he couldn't stop staring at. He was bored.
With her head in his lap, sleeping soundly, was Dana Scully. She was curled up on her side taking up the rest of the bed. She looked considerably more comfortable than Fox Mulder did at the moment. She didn't know, as he did, that two people were observing them through the window. What irked him was that, even if she did know, it still wouldn't bother her. The moment she conceded they weren't going to die, she became very at ease with herself. Mulder, on the other hand, was convinced he had gone insane.
"Well, both were sick fairly recently with some unknown pathogen. Agent Scully's records indicate something seemed to have attacked her on the DNA level, much like a virus, but they never could confirm it." Having just arrived recently from another assignment, this was the first time the Colonel had been briefed on the situation.
"What about our tests?"
"We couldn't substantiate the presence of a virus either, Sir. The fallout was too deteriorated to piece together. We are in complete concurrence with the Georgetown findings. Whatever it was very nearly killed her. The odd nature of contraction - she was abducted, then showed up two weeks later in a hospital, with no explanation - it all seems very suspect. We have no ability to determine where she contracted the contagion. We can't substantiate much of anything, yet there it is," she said, gesturing to a picture in the file.
"And Mulder?" he asked, looking up at the window.
"His illness, apparently contracted somewhere in the arctic - they wouldn't give us the exact location - was identified as a retro-virus of unknown origin. Our level 4 department aided in the research. One other FBI agent died before we were able to determine its nature. It is a very volatile pathogen. Agent Mulder almost died as well."
"The obvious question would be; Are there any similarities?"
"The pathologies are slightly different, but that could have been due to the way in which the disease was caught, the path of infection. More importantly, the antibodies we found in each patient are *exactly* the same. If Scully has the very same antibodies that Agent Mulder has, then her disease MUST have been the same one that infected Mulder. We've never seen anything like these antibodies. The protein structure is incredibly complex." As McKnight looked through the window, she noticed Mulder stroking Agent Scully's hair. He was still staring into space. It looked like Scully was snoring.
"And you think these complex antibodies were derived from these unexplained illnesses?" he asked, pointing to the medical records.
"We believe it is the retro-virus, yes, Sir."
"You can find no trace of the foreign antigen in either patient?"
"We found no trace of it in Mulder and, as I said, only fragments of it in Agent Scully."
"You said that they definitely had a strain of the Ebola virus in their system?"
"Yes, Sir. But it was completely eradicated by this foreign antibody."
"That would explain why they're still here. They should be dead."
"Yes. In blood tests, we found that these strange antibodies were searching out and destroying the Ebola virus. We thought it was antibody for the Ebola virus, which was extraordinary alone. We thought we had the cure. But, when we decided to try it on our other level four diseases..." McKnight had become very animated, excited.
McKnight realized she was too excited. She slowed down and took a big breath. "We began to propose a theory that Agent Scully and Mulder's initial illness was, in fact, an extreme auto-immune response. Their new antibody simply didn't know the difference between a bad element and a normal protein of the patient's own body."
"Are you saying that those two had an extreme allergic reaction to whatever first attacked them?" Colonel Jacobs was incredulous.
"Yes and no. We believe the initial antigen caused quite a bit of damage all on its own. The antibody, which the patient's body tailor-made to fight this foreign antigen, at first, attacked everything in sight, nearly killing the patient. It then began to recognize a good cell from what wasn't and attacked and destroyed the bad. It adapted itself to every new hostile infection."
"No single antibody can do that!"
"This one can."
"Did you test it on other diseases?"
"All of the level four pathogens. The deadliest diseases known to man."
"It destroyed every single one of them."
The news was, to say the least, shocking. Looking at the documents, Colonel Jacobs said, "So, essentially what you're telling me, Pat, is that something, something foreign, entered those two and made them the immunological equivalent of superman and superwoman."
"Yes, Sir. They... can't get sick." McKnight said with a shrug. "At least, not by anything we are aware of."
Looking through the papers, the Colonel began to shake his head. "These two people were someone's guinea pigs." He held the files up to McKnight. "This is some power hungry bastards little science experiment."
Recalling the events of the past few weeks, McKnight had a disconcerting thought. "Sir."
His eyes looked up from the file he was holding.
"The purpose of this institute is medical defense."
Jacobs drew his brows together. "Yes. What's your point?"
"Well, our mission, or one of them, is to find ways to protect soldiers from infectious disease and biological weapons." She pointed to the window, "Don't you find it highly convenient, Sir, that these two federal agents are here? That *we* found them?"
The Colonel gave her a pointed look. She suddenly sensed that the question was tactless.
Closing the file, the Colonel said advisedly, "Pat, I find that it's always best not to question good fortune."
McKnight suspected he knew something, but couldn't reveal it. *Secrets... Always secrets.*
"Do we keep them, Sir?" she asked.
"No. We've got their blood... That's all we need."
"Should we be expecting anymore 'good fortune', Sir?" McKnight wanted him to know she understood.
"I think we've filled our quota of good luck for quite a while, Lt. Colonel." The Colonel gave her a slight smile, glanced at the restless couple behind the plexiglass, and walked out.
McKnight had completely forgotten something.
In all the confusion of the last two weeks, that wasn't surprising. She went to the side of the observation window and flicked on an intercom.
"Agent Mulder, you never did tell me..."
His finger went to his lips. "Shhhh..." He pointed to the sleeping head in his lap.
*She WAS snoring.* McKnight thought. She could hear it now. The inevitable thought was, *Do I snore?* She'd have to ask her husband.
She shook her head. It was hard to concentrate, she was so tired.
"Sorry," she whispered loudly. In a lower voice she said, "I was just wondering if your part in this - operation - was successful. Was everything resolved?"
He gave a world weary smile and scratched his beard. Slowly he shook his head, "We got some names, nobody you'd know."
She smiled, "I'm sure."
"What we found is melted at the bottom of a barrel." For a brief moment, his stare became bitter. "Even so, what was on those tapes cannot be substantiated. If I couldn't completely convince my partner of my suspicions, do you honestly think I could convince you... or anyone else?"
"You have no proof?"
He looked right at her. "I'm alive." He looked down, still stroking Dana's hair. "Scully's alive." There was a brief silence. "That's proof enough for me."
She felt guilty that she couldn't tell them the truth about their illness. She was told o say that the virus had mutated into a benign state. That was a story that wasn't fooling either of them. The two agents made no comment, as if they were used to people lying to them.
They weren't a danger to anyone, however. The antibody they carried around inside them was so thorough, it completely destroyed any trace of the virus. She felt they knew they weren't being told the complete truth, but there was nothing she could do. Someone higher up, much higher up, decided that the institute was the only body responsible enough to handle the information.
She doubted that.
She was about to turn away, but.. she couldn't help herself. "Do you realize how important you two are?"
"We just want to go home, Ma'am."