Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully and Co. belong to CC, 1013 Productions and the Fox network, and I don't own them, but everyone knows if I did the world would be a happier place to be for shippers. All other minor characters, including the surfers, the lifeguard, the teens and, yes, the Malikudda, belong to me and you can't have them so there! (I'm kidding, you can borrow them with permission...) Obsidian belongs to me, of course, and he's *still* an important character, even if you may not think so.
Summary: Scully almost becomes lunch for a sea monster during an investigation in Malibu...and almost drives Mulder nuts...
Author's note: "Malikudda" is my crowning achievement!...so far. It's also the longest thing I've written, so if you're planning to print, beware. I got the idea for this one while Riva and I were at Magic Mountain and were wondering... "Hey, what if Mulder and Scully went to Magic Mountain..." Although that's not what the story's about, it's funny, and it's how it came about. This was written also when I was starting to get better at writing angst and romance, if that was ever possible for me. The climax is angsty. But be warned...after reading this, it may be a while before you dare to venture into the water again!!
Malibu, coast of California
"This one's mine!"
Sarge Hanks swam with all his might into the crushing waves, ignoring the cold water seeping into his wetsuit. He eagerly positioned his flames-decorated surfboard onto the approaching wave and stood up.
"Wooo-hoo!" Sarge's little brother, Kyle, called after him as he rode the wave a long ways, did a neat little turn and then splashed into the surf. Spray, foam and ocean water went everywhere. Sarge's head popped out of the water a moment after the wave broke. He laughed with pure enjoyment and shook water from his jet-black hair. Sarge and Kyle's two best friends, Jake and Antonio, were there as well, hoping to catch as many waves as Sarge's expertise allowed them.
It would still be several hours before the sun came up, and the water of the Pacific was freezing cold. But the foursome didn't care. No one came to the beach this early in the morning, especially in the winter, so they had the entire beach to themselves to surf as long as they wanted.
The waves were perfect. Antonio caught one right after Sarge, and then Kyle, then Sarge did again, and then Jake. So far, no one had wiped out. They laughed, whooped and cheered and the tricks and antics each person performed on their board.
"Hey, Sarge, mind letting us get one sometime this decade, dude?" Jake called to Sarge.
"Maybe. Let me go out with Rachel, she's hot." he called back.
"No way, man! She's mine!"
"Then let me tepee Darthman's tower this time!"
"I was planning on spray-painting it!"
"I've got this one!" Kyle called to his friends. He swam out towards the next approaching wave, surfboard ready to use. He began to float with the current that rose him up and out of the water into the base of the wave that was quickly beginning to foam over. Then he noticed something between the spray and foam. The unmistakable triangular shape jutting out of the water...
"Shark! Shark!!" Kyle hollered aloud. The other three surfers gasped with alarm, but not with fear. They had dealt with sharks before, and once Jake had even got his leg bitten by one. They didn't panic. Sarge ordered everyone to swim quietly towards shore. Antonio groaned with resentment and complained about how whenever they were in the middle of really good surfing, a shark was spotted or a lifeguard spotted them. Kyle tread as quietly as possible back over the breaking wave in an effort to reach the shore. Boy, that thing was huge! It must have been a monster of a Hammerhead, or maybe even a Tiger. He hoped it wasn't a Great White; he wouldn't know what to do if he met one. The thing was swimming in his direction, and swimming fast. Suddenly, something clasped his leg and tugged him down.
"Kyle!!" Sarge yelled aloud with horror. Something had pulled Kyle under, surfboard and all. The shark's fin darted this way and that, and flashes of black and blue showed through the waves. Sarge abandoned his one chance to get to shore and swam furiously out towards the underwater struggle.
"Sarge, come back!!" Jake roared as he and Antonio paddled for the sand. Sarge ignored them and reached the point where the water was churning and frothing furiously. The foam was tinted red. Sarge roared with rage and prepared to bring a crushing blow with his surfboard on the head of his brother's attacker. Instead, he too got pulled under the surface.
"Sarge! Kyle!!" the two other surfers cried in panic. The constant waves interrupted the fight and displayed only glimpses of it. An arm here, a fin there, Sarge's face, etched over with absolute terror. And then an enormous, reptilian-like head burst through the water. Jake and Antonio stared at the thing in complete shock. The thing had a long, pointed snout and dark, unblinking eyes. Blue and black scales and spikes glistened in the water. The jaws opened to reveal a double set of long, jagged teeth, from which a piece of ragged flesh was dangling.
The two teens didn't need any second bidding. They immediately abandoned their boards and swam furiously towards the beach, their life-long comrades forgotten. The thing gave a long, low, gurgling roar of triumph and slowly vanished beneath the waves. Antonio and Jake scrambled onto the beach and ran doggedly across the sand to their rusty-red pickup truck, screaming at the top of their lungs. The sea slowly regained its constant rhythm of pounding waves.
An hour later, half of a surfboard was washed up on shore and implanted firmly in the sand.
Malibu, coast of California
The surfboard was still there when Mulder and Scully arrived.
Scully tried not to notice the crowds of policemen, paramedics and onlookers that were spread all around the slightly tranquil scene. She had seen it too many times for comfort. Rather, she concentrated on the sun, shining down on the beach and burning away the morning fog. It was a big improvement from the last couple of days she and Mulder had spent in the snowy woods of Wyoming.
Scully couldn't remember the last time she had been to the west coast, and she wished she could enjoy it without the added stress from the fact that this was an investigation, not a vacation. It was then that she remembered that she didn't even know what they were investigating. She had been so tired she hadn't even asked Mulder what was wrong in California; she had just hopped on the plane and come.
Mulder was talking to two young, stocky teenagers and a lifeguard when Scully strode up to him. She tapped him lightly on his shoulder to gain his attention. He turned to face her.
"Mulder, what are we doing here?"
Mulder broke into a grin. "I thought you'd never ask." He turned back to the teens and the lifeguard. "This is my partner, Agent Dana Scully. You'd better explain to her."
"I'm telling you!" the older teen turned on the lifeguard. "It's not just a big shark, we saw it! It had huge spikes, and scales, claws, fangs..."
Scully rolled her eyes. She had heard *this* before.
The lifeguard shot back just as angrily at the teen. "You stupid kids, there's no monster out there! A big white lie, if I ever heard one..."
"This looks like a job for Monster Boy," Mulder said to Scully in a mocking tone.
"Shush!" Scully ordered the three rivals, who had begun an all-out argument. "One at a time. You first," she nodded to the lifeguard.
"Oh, yeah, *he* get's to talk first," the teen growled.
"I said shut up!" Scully snorted. "Now, you go ahead."
The lifeguard, a tall, muscular man with hair that almost matched Scully's, cleared his throat and began to explain. "For the past eight months or so there's been reports of some kind of large marine predator swimming in this area. It's been a minor news thing or other, a modern legend."
"And what, you don't believe it?"
"I didn't say I didn't believe it. I think I've seen it myself. Just a big shark's fin sticking out of the water; goin' back and forth beyond the waves. When I saw it, I called everyone out of the water on shark alert. It swam away after a while."
Scully glanced disapprovingly at Mulder. "We were called all the way down to California on such short notice to hunt for a shark?"
"Apparently not," Mulder said, looking at the lifeguard. "While we were in Wyoming, someone swimming in this Zuma beach area was attacked suddenly by something in the water. The victim bot both his legs bitten off by something he claims to be a sea monster."
Scully sighed and looked at the two teens. "Alright. *Your* turn."
The older teen faced Scully. "I'm Jake, and this is Antonio. Something happened this morning, while we were surfing..."
"Unauthorized, dangerous sport..." the lifeguard added.
"Shut up, Darthman! I'm talking! Well, you only see two of us here, right? Well, there's supposed to be two more, Sarge an' Kyle."
"Where are they?" Mulder asked.
Jake looked out at the ocean. "It got 'em, that's all. We were lucky to get away in one piece."
"Do you know what happened to them?"
"Sure do," Antonio butted in. "Th' monster ate 'em."
Scully was beginning to feel more and more skeptic with every turn the conversation took. "A monster? Not a shark, which would be more likely?"
"No *way*. That was *no* shark. You should've seen it, it was huge! Head like a crocodile, kinda snake-like body, spikes down it's back, scales, and hundreds of enormous teeth," he stretched his arms wide to emphasize, then looked at Scully. "Coulda eaten someone your size in one gulp."
Scully gave Mulder an If-I-hear-one-more-word-from-this-kid-I'm-gonna- chuck-him-in-the-ocean kind of look. Mulder wasn't watching her. He was staring at something poking out of the sand, several yards away from them, resting right on the horizon. Jake and Antonio followed his gaze. They gasped in surprise and began to race towards the object, sending a spray of sand in their wake. Mulder, Scully, and the lifeguard, Darthman, groaned and started after them.
They ran along the breaking waves for a long distance before finally catching up to where the two boys stood. They were staring at the thing with blank looks on their faces. Mulder and Scully stopped and stared.
It was a surfboard, half-buried in the sand.
Scully began to walk towards it, then stopped and cringed with disgust. But not from the fact that the bottom half of the board had been bitten off completely; teeth marks still visible.
And not from the fact that the wristband was still attached to the board. Or from the fact that the surfer's arm was still attached to the wristband.
It was the fact that the arm was no longer attached to the body.
Under different circumstances, the scene would have been very comical. Half of a lone surfboard, sticking out of the sand in the middle of nowhere, with a limb attached to the board's wristband. But now, Scully was getting a very bad feeling in the pit of her stomach...
Mulder leaned over to her and began to hum the "Jaws" theme song.
"What's this?!" Darthman sputtered in surprise when he saw the surfboard. "Some kind of practical joke?"
Jake and Antonio slowly backed away from the board. "Th-that was Sarge's," Antonio finally stuttered. "He went out to save Kyle."
Mulder picked up the board and laid it down on the sand. "Those look like teeth marks," he said, examining the bitten-off end. "Much bigger teeth marks than I've seen on any shark."
Darthman was no convinced. "It's some kind of trick!" he turned on Jake and Antonio. "Admit it! You put that there to make us think it was some stupid monster!"
Jake snarled angrily at Darthman. "What's your problem, freak? Where do you think we'd get a half-eaten surfboard? Or some dude's *arm*?!"
The lifeguard looked at them coldly. "Some surfers will do anything for publicity..."
Antonio raised his fist. "Are you saying we're some kind of murderers, punk?!! are you saying we killed our best friends to get on TV?!" With that, he and Jake pounced on the lifeguard and tried to wrestle him to the ground.
"That's enough!" Scully pulled out her gun furiously and pointed it at the three sprawling figures. They immediately ceased their fighting. "Stand up! And not a word between any one of you!"
The three obeyed. Scully put her gun away and analyzed them tiredly. "Alright, now let's try and sort things out. Jake and Antonio say that a monster ate their two friends. Darthman says that Jake and Antonio killed their friends to make it seem like a monster killed them."
"And what do you say?" Darthman asked.
"I think both your theories are ridiculous."
"*That* figures," Mulder muttered.
Scully ignored the comment and continued. "As for my opinion, I think a large shark or other such marine predator is responsible for the disappearance of those two boys. There definitely wouldn't be any sea monsters, and I don't see how it could be murder."
They were silent for a moment. "What do *you* think?" Darthman asked Mulder.
Mulder was staring out at sea, his eyes transfixed on the horizon. "I'm wondering what that guy in that speedboat is doing out there," he pointed to a small white blotch on the water.
The other's followed his gaze. Darthman gasped with surprise. "This beach is supposed to be off-limits! He's not supposed to be there!!" The lifeguard leaned over to Mulder, grabbed his cell phone right out of his pocket and punched in a number. "Hey, Sanowsky! We've got someone out there, in a boat, about south-south-west, heading west. Yes, you heard me, we need coast guard to cut him off. Thanks."
He handed the phone back to Mulder, who returned it to his pocket with a slight growl of annoyance. Police cars and lifeguard trucks began to skit across the sand towards the two teens, the lifeguard and the agents. A crowd of onlookers began to follow as well.
"We'd better get this out of here," Scully pointed at the half-eaten surfboard. "We can use it as evidence later."
"Look, this is no murder," Antonio persisted. "There's something *out* there, man. And it's not going to leave. This ocean ain't safe anymore."
Scully watched the coast guard boats begin to approach the speedboat from behind. The man, barely visible against the blue ocean and now-strong glare of the sun, turned and saw the approaching vessels. The speedboat picked up speed and began to race away from its pursuers.
"Maybe not," Scully said slowly. "Why would that guy be out there alone in the middle of the ocean when the beach is off-limits? And why is he running away from the coast guard?"
Now everyone was watching. The coast guard boats were easily catching up to the small speedboat. Just then, a third police boat came in from the other side. The man was trapped.
"Do you think he could be involved in this?" Mulder questioned. "Do you think *he* could be responsible for those two teens?"
"Maybe," Scully answered, "but how? And why?"
"I'm telling you, it's no human!" Jake shouted again.
"Look," Mulder pointed out to sea. "What's he doing?"
The man in the speedboat was trapped between the three approaching crafts. He glanced behind him, in front, and too all sides. Then he clambered over the rail of his boat...and leaped into the sea!
"What the....?" Scully looked on with the others. The speedboat nearly collided with the police boat and drifted off by itself. The three other boats stopped where the man had jumped and began to search the area.
"Call it a hunch," Mulder said slowly, "but I think that man just made it onto our list of suspects."
"What, so we're suspects?" Jake shouted. "We get blamed for *everything*. I'm telling you..."
"Not now," Scully shushed him. "We're not sure of anything yet. As far as we know, there's too boys reported missing, and some kind of large marine predator roaming around this beach for the past eight months. The rest has been just exaggerated into a story about a monster."
"So what are we going to do?" Mulder asked impatiently.
"There's nothing more we can do here. The coast guard will find that guy sooner or later, then they'll bring him in for questioning. Until then, I think we should go back to where we were staying and see if we can dig up any more info on this."
She turned to Jake, Antonio and Darthman. "You guys, don't go far. I want to question you all a little further later."
The two teenagers and the lifeguard separated and went off into the crowd. Scully gave instructions to some of the policemen as to wrap up the surfboard for evidence. Then she and Mulder started through the crowd of onlookers, with Scully flashing her badge at anyone in their way.
It was then that Mulder stared at someone staring at him from the crowd; a young, tall, blond-haired girl, watching him with intense, dark-brown eyes. There was something about her that Mulder didn't find quite right... He dismissed the thought. Probably nothing. He and Scully broke through the crowd on the beach and walked to their rental car in the parking lot.
Scully decided that she enjoyed driving right along the beach, looking over the ocean. She wished the rental car was a convertible so she could put the top down and let the ocean wind whip through her hair. But, there were other things to think about. Mulder, however, appeared to be deep in thought as he drove the rental car through the winding hills up to their hotel.
"Well," Scully finally sighed, "apparently, we're getting more than we asked for from this case."
"Yeah," Mulder agreed. "I was hoping that we could get this case over with, and then spend some time to enjoy ourselves. You know, spend a day at the beach, hang out at some fancy restaurant, maybe see some movie stars..."
"Movie stars?" Scully questioned.
"Yeah, you know. Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Jane Seymour, David Du-what's-his-name..."
Scully glanced over at Mulder. "Did I ever tell you that you look like him?"
"No way! I'm *much* better looking than he is!"
Scully smiled and gazed out the window at the ocean, only to be reminded of their actual problem.
"What are we going to do now?" Mulder asked, breaking the few minute's silence.
"*I* am going to get back to our hotel and take a long nap," Scully said tiredly. "I didn't get a wink of sleep on the flight here."
"I doubt we'll be getting much sleep at all with this case."
"Mulder, this is completely absurd. The only thing in that ocean that could have caused the anxiety among the people in Malibu is a large shark. There's no such thing as sea monsters, and this definitely isn't murder. There was no reason for us to be called out here, this is just an incident or two on the beach that's grown into a modern legend."
Mulder gave her a slightly optimistic look. "What makes you think there's no such thing as sea monsters?"
"Mulder, don't you even..."
"Wait, just hear me out," Mulder interrupted. "Think about it. For centuries past, sailors and captains and all kind of people sailing on the high seas have reported seeing large serpentine-like or dragon-like creatures living in the oceans. Some of these creatures were even said to have sunken ships. And not just from one spot, but all over the world. These legends must have originated from somewhere, there must be a reason there are so many reports of monsters from so many people.
And people seem to day more of monsters in the ocean than on land. Think about it, oceans cover 2/3rds of this planet. Sometimes, the depths of these oceans go miles down. There are trenches in the Pacific bigger than Mt. Everest. Scientists are discovery new species of marine life every day, and there are still thousands of species still down there, just waiting to be found and categorized. Don't' you even wonder if that thing is not just a big shark? Some kind of old, maybe prehistoric creature that's remained hidden for thousands of years and hasn't been discovered yet?"
Scully glared at him and summed up his explanation in a few words. "A prehistoric sea serpent terrorizing Zuma beach and eating surfers? Sounds a bit farfetched to me..."
Mulder sighed. Sometimes he wondered if Scully ever would believe in the strange and paranormal. Even after the big incident in Antarctica, she still seemed to be skeptic. Deep down, however, Mulder was sure she believed, but she just didn't want to admit it.
There was no more conversation between them, because then Mulder pulled the rental car into the parking lot of the Malibu Inn, the hotel they were staying in. They quickly checked in and got their luggage, which they had dropped off there earlier. Mulder and Scully trudged up the stairs to their hotel room tiredly and walked in. Scully collapsed on the bed as soon as she kicked off her shoes and opened the curtain to let the sun shine in.
"I can't believe they're making us share a room," she commented.
"First you don't believe in sea monsters. Now you don't believe in sharing rooms. I don't know, maybe the FBI wants to start on a stricter budget."
"That's a first..."
"Go to sleep."
"I think I will, thank you very much."
Scully buried her head in a pillow and sighed. Mulder, meanwhile, got himself comfortable in a chair and picked up the local paper, entitled 'Malibu Surfside News'. His eyebrows rose as he read the bold front headline:
"MALIKUDDA DEVOURS TWO TEENAGERS: FBI CALLED IN TO HUNT DOWN MALIBU SEA MONSTER."
"Hey, Scully, we made the front page," he waved the paper in front of her half-open eyes.
"Mulder, I'm trying to get some sleep. I don't even want to *hear* about sea monsters."
Mulder shrugged and sat down to read the story. According to the article, the strange creature was called the "Malikudda" by the Malibu citizens. There had been several sightings of it for the past eight months or so. Mulder hoped that it would give some unknown information on the creature, but it didn't tell any more than they already knew.
Mulder tossed the paper aside and stared out the window at the ocean thoughtfully. Perhaps he should follow Scully's example; they had had little sleep for the past few days...
His thoughts were interrupted by a quick knock at the door.
"Who is it?" Mulder called.
"Ah...sir? May we come in?" a female voice came from the outside.
Intrigued, Mulder got up and opened the door. Two teenage girls were standing in the hallway.
"Ah...can I help you?" Mulder said slowly.
"Who is it?" Scully called, getting up from the bed.
Mulder gasped with slight surprise. He recognized one of the girls: the tall, blond one he had seen in the crowd at the beach. The other girl was much shorter, and had dark brown hair and brown-blue eyes. They stared at him sort of expectantly.
"Are you the FBI agents?" the brunette asked.
"Yeah..." Mulder answered. "What do you want?"
"I'm Rachel Williams," the blond pointed at herself. "And this is my friend, Margaret Lewison."
"I'm Agent Mulder," Mulder introduced himself. "And this is Agent Scully. How did you find us?"
"I think we can help you, Agent Mulder."
Mulder pulled up two chairs for Rachel and Margaret to sit in. Scully was content with simply sitting on the bed. Mulder collapsed into his own chair and sat watching them profoundly.
The two girls appeared to be rather nervous. "You tell them," Margaret whispered to Rachel.
"No, *you* tell them."
"Alright," Margaret looked at Mulder. "We know where the Malikudda comes from."
The *what*?!" Scully said, puzzled.
"The monster," Mulder explained. Scully rolled her eyes. "Go on."
"I think it was about eight months ago," Margaret began. "And we were out on my front porch, just talking. I'm not sure what time it was. Late, I think. But suddenly, Rachel stopped talking and pointed out at the ocean. My porch overlooks the ocean, you see.
And as we watched, this bright blue blotch appeared right in the middle of the sea, just out of nowhere. It kept growing and growing larger. We thought it would take up the entire ocean. Then it stopped growing, and began to spin. It looked like an enormous whirlpool. It was spinning very, very slowly, but you could still tell it was moving."
Rachel picked up where Margaret left off. "We drove down to the big dock on the west side. My dad owns a few boats down there. We took one of my dad's boats and went out to where we saw the whirlpool."
They stopped and stared at each other. Mulder waited, but they didn't continue. Margaret fidgeted around nervously in her chair.
"Go on," Mulder said.
Margaret swallowed and got a queer look on her face. "We felt a force. Very strong. And there were things...and a red ocean. Stars, too, and these flashes of color in the sky."
Scully raised her eyebrows. This was getting even stranger and stranger.
"And..." Rachel choked back tears. "We saw it..."
"Saw *what*?" Mulder said, becoming impatient.
The....it was gigantic! We thought we were going to die." Margaret gasped pitifully. "Looked like something out of a storybook. We were certain it was looking at us. Then it dived and swam away. It came right though...the door."
"A hole in the sea. We only got a glimpse of the other side of the whirlpool. All we know is that's where the Malikudda came from."
Margaret stopped and swallowed again. Mulder's head drooped and Scully shifted on the bed with obvious skepticism and discontent. "Go on," Mulder urged.
Rachel breathed in deeply several times before continuing. "And then... this man came up, I think he was in a white speedboat or something. Anyway, he took one look at us and began shouting and swearing and everything ...and that whirlpool was still there, although the Malikudda was gone.
He dragged us on board his boat and kept shouting at us. We were too frightened to really hear what he was saying. But he made us promise..." she stopped and swallowed again. "He made us promise not to tell anyone what we'd seen. Not tell *anyone*. If we did..."
"He said he'd *kill* us," Margaret sobbed. "He said he'd come and find us and kill us!" she leaned over and began to cry on her friend's shoulder. Mulder looked over at Scully with a surprised expression.
"Do you think...?"
"If the man we saw out there today was the same man these girls met," Scully concluded, "then he's our prime suspect. *He* might be behind the murders of those two surfers."
Mulder glanced back at the two girls. "Don't worry. Nothing's going to happen."
Rachel held back strangled sobs. "We thought that nothing would happen. We thought that the Malikudda would just go away, not be what we knew it was, not hurt anyone. Then we heard how people had begun spotting it, and we grew worried. Then we heard about the two surfers. We felt like we had to tell *someone*. But we're afraid that he'll come after us now that we've broken our promise to him."
"We're not going to let anyone hurt you," Scully reassured them. "We're here to solve this case, and we'll catch whoever's behind this."
"You can't catch it," Margaret warned. "*Nothing* can stop it. The biggest harpoons and knives and weapons couldn't break those scales and spikes."
Mulder pulled out a piece of blank paper and pen from his suitcase and handed them to the two teens. "Do you think you can draw me what you saw? Can you sketch what you saw come through the door?"
"I'll try," Margaret took the paper and pen, set them on the nearby table and began to sketch. Mulder waited patiently, but it didn't take her long to finish the picture.
"Here," she handed it to him. He took one glance at it, and knew that they had found what they were looking for. Mulder's eyes widened as he studied the picture. He handed it to Scully. "See what you make of that."
Scully took the sketch. Her eyebrows rose, her eyes narrowed and she got a very frustrated expression on her face.
"She's a good artist," Rachel said confidently.
Scully handed the drawing back to Mulder. "Is that all you wanted to tell us?"
"Uh...yeah. Yeah, we felt like you were the people we should tell."
"I think we read about you from somewhere, in some news article. Yeah, you were trying to defuse this bomb or something in Texas; I have relatives there. Some other news stories, too. You tracked down that escaped psycho killer, Modell, or whatever his name was. You thought you could help us the most."
"We'll help you any way we can. Thank you for telling us what you know about this, I guarantee it won't give you any trouble. I think the best thing you two can do is to go home and get some rest. Let us take care of things."
"Thank you *so* much," Rachel sighed heavily. "You have no idea how we feel, how much this means to us."
"We'll do everything we can," Mulder assured them. The two teenagers thanked him again, then got up and quickly left.
As soon as they had gone, Mulder turned back to Scully. He gave her a slightly mocking expression. "Well, what do you suggest now? A shark that looks like a sea serpent? Or a murderer with a mind for clever yet absurd hoaxes?"
Scully picked up the drawing again, looked at it, and threw it down on the bed. "For the last time, Mulder, there is *no* sea monster. But I still think those girls gave us a fresh lead. The man we saw down at the beach has a strong connection to this. We need to find out what."
"Then what are we waiting for?" Mulder grabbed up the car keys from the table. "Let's go take a ride."
Hughes Research Institute, Malibu
Jake and Antonio spun around with surprise. Their surprised faces changed to scowls as they watched Darthman the lifeguard stride purposefully up to them. His face was set in probably the biggest frown ever formed that decade. The two teens faced him defiantly.
"What are you doing here?" Darthman motioned at all of the surrounding scientific supplies. "Only authorized personnel are allowed in this building! What are you fooling with?!"
"We came to get Sarge's board back," Antonio said flatly. He pointed at the surfboard on the table, now wrapped entirely in plastic. "This isn't just some stupid evidence you can treat like a piece of-"
"I told you to get out!" Darthman yelled again. "Only authorized personnel."
"And since when the heck were you 'authorized personnel'?" Jake shot back. "You're just a dang lifeguard, you're no cop! What are *you* doing here?!"
"I got permission from the feds," Darthman answered coldly.
"The heck you got permission!" Antonio bellowed in his face. "You probably just followed us here to try and spy on us! You're trying to get us framed!!"
"That's enough!!" Scully's voice came from the doorway. The three glanced over at the entrance to the lab room. There, glaring at them decisively, were Agents Mulder and Scully.
"I think we need to know what's going on here."
All three started shouting at once. Mulder rolled his eyes despairingly. Scully tried to shout over them, but it didn't work. It was when she started to pull out her gun that they fell quiet.
"Sit down," she ordered. The teens and the lifeguard obeyed. "Now, I want to know what you're doing here."
"We came to get Sarge's board," Jake demanded. "You can't just take it and wrap it up like that. It belongs to us now."
Mulder turned to Darthman. "What about you?"
"I came here because I found out the coast guard didn't catch that guy in the speedboat," Darthman answered. "I wanted to talk to some of the coast guard guys to find out what happened. They're in the conference room. I heard something back here, so I came running and found these two."
"They *didn't* find the man?" Scully said worriedly.
"What's the coast guard doing at the Hughes Research Institute?" Mulder asked.
"By the way, what exactly are *you* doing here?" Antonio questioned, glaring.
"We found out something," Scully answered. "From two teenage girls who claim to have seen this mystery creature close-up. The man who escaped the coast guard today may have threatened those girls eight months ago, and he *may* have killed your two friends. We're not sure yet."
"How can you guys still think a *human* did this?" Jake insisted. "We *know* what we saw. I swear we're not lying."
"Apparently, those girls saw the same thing," Mulder said. "Now come on, you can't get suspicious of us either. This is only part of our investigation. We're trying to find out who or what could be behind this."
"Well then," Darthman sighed, "let's get started."
Mulder flipped through the transparencies patiently, one after the other, his feet propped up on the research table. So far, nothing had come up. He put one folder back in the file cabinet and began to flip through another.
Scully waited while the computer scanned the imprint of the teeth marks on the surfboard onto the screen. On the desk beside the board she had laid out three rows of two dozen shark teeth, each tooth from a different species. The Malibu H.R.I. came equipped with hundreds of anatomic tools and samples of marine life taken from the Pacific, which Scully decided would help her in trying to find out what sort of animal had taken half of Sarge's surfboard.
Jake, Antonio, even Darthman tried to help out, although they did so rather reluctantly. They flipped through newspapers and scientific journals on recently-discovered marine life. The lab room of H.R.I. had been their workplace for the last couple of hours.
Suddenly, Scully's computer beeped. "It's done scanning," she announced. "Now we can find out exactly what bit Sarge's surfboard." The others watched her type out commands into the computer. She frowned as a small error box popped up on the screen.
"What the...? No match available with any cataloged specimens? Okay... run analysis on tooth only..."
"What's wrong, Scully?" Mulder asked.
"The computer can't identify what kind of animal has the teeth that match the teeth marks on Sarge's board. I'm running the program again so the computer will at least show me what the tooth that matches looks like..."
She continued typing. Another box filled the screen, this time displaying a diagram of a triangular object. Scully backed away from the computer with surprise. "Oh, good grief! If this thing is correct, the animal that attacked Sarge had teeth eight inches long and two inches wide. They were practically railroad spikes."
"I *told* you..." Antonio sneered.
"That's not all, Scully," Mulder held up a stack of transparencies. "These are satellite photos of the Zuma beach area, taken last February. I think you should look at them."
Scully, still slightly bewildered, took the transparencies and studied them. There was the usual brownish-green hills to indicate land, and the flat aqua-blue to indicate water. But...in the middle of the flat blue, there was a strange-looking, whitish-silver blotch. She flipped through the transparencies, and they all displayed the same white blotch.
"Do you know what that is?" Mulder asked.
"I don't know...maybe an error in the satellite programming, a glitch in the color printer."
"Not likely," Mulder argued. "Notice how the blotch seems to grow larger in later pictures. These were taken during a half-hour time period. And the dates are in late February, about eight months ago. It's almost the exact same time and place Rachel and Margaret said they found the whirlpool."
"And what exactly do you think this is, Mulder? An underwater UFO? A secret US military base?"
"Actually," Mulder said, smiling, "I think it's some form of a dimension door."
Scully almost dropped the transparencies with aggravation. "Mulder, are you suggesting to me that a sea monster from another dimension got stuck in some time warp and is now terrorizing Malibu beach?"
"See? I *told* you!" Antonio exclaimed.
"Well, look at these satellite photos," Mulder persisted. "It can't identify what that white blotch in the ocean is. and the computer can't identify what kind of animal has teeth that bit Sarge's board. And from the two girl's description..."
"But a *dimension door*? And a *sea monster*?! Mulder, I've heard some strange ideas from you before, but this one ranks on my top ten list!!"
"What are we supposed to do?" Darthman said. "Send out some men to try and catch this monster or whatever? Fishing nets and harpoons, I suppose?"
"No," Scully held up her hands for silence. "I don't think an animal is responsible for what's been going on here. I think that man, whoever he is and whatever he's doing, is accountable for all this. We need to try and find him first."
"But what if these sightings and attacks continue even after we've caught the guy?" Mulder asked.
"*Then* we'll know that it's an animal, a *shark* most likely. Then we'll get someone to hunt the thing down."
"We're going to have trouble finding that guy, especially since we don't know his name or what he looks like," Mulder sighed.
"Well, come on," Scully groaned, standing up. "Let's go talk to the coast guard. Maybe we can find out something else..."
Friday, November 30th, 1998
"I can't believe we've gotten almost nowhere with this case," Mulder groaned.
Mulder and Scully's day had been extremely busy. After they had finished getting the info they needed from the Hughes Research Institute, they had had a long conversation with the coast guard on what had happened to the man in the speedboat. The coast guard had searched the area he had jumped into for hours, but they hadn't found a single trace of him.
However, the coast guard had been able to give them a brief description of the man: sort of short and stocky, perhaps in his early 40's, with brown-red hair and wearing a plain white T-shirt and jeans. The speedboat had been brought in, and they found out it wasn't licensed, so it was now just sitting at the dock until later. But besides that, no one knew what had happened to the man.
Then Mulder, Scully, Jake, Antonio and Darthman had gone back down to Zuma beach to watch for any more activity in the ocean. They had only been there for an hour or so before the press invaded the beach and bombarded the fivesome with questions and microphones in their noses. By the time they finally got the news reporters off their backs, the sun had almost set and it was too dark to search anymore. Mulder had taken Scully out to some restaurant for dinner, and they were now in the car on the way back to their hotel.
"For once, Mulder, I actually agree with you," Scully sighed. "Tomorrow we'll have to keep looking. We'll see if we can trace the owner of that speedboat, and then go down to the beach again and spot out anything unusual. We *have* to find that guy, and I have a feeling that he'll be coming back to the beach for something."
"But for what?" Mulder questioned. "I agree that the man in the speedboat has a connection with this, but I think it's much bigger than we realize. How do you explain the satellite photos? And those teeth marks? Or Margaret's drawing?"
"I don't think the man just threatened those two girls, Mulder," Scully said wearily. "I think he *told* them to make up a story on a sea monster and a whirlpool. There's no real monster. What we really need to do is catch our actual suspect, not go chasing after fairy-tale fish."
"We'll see," Mulder said. The car turned and drove into the hotel parking lot.
Pacific Ocean Saturday, December 1st, 1998 1;03 A.M.
"Lemmie go! I said let me go!!"
"Shaddup! No one's gonna hear you!"
The waters of the Pacific were quiet and cold as the small white speedboat raced across the waves. Very few stars were out; blacked out by the LA smog. The Brown-haired Man glanced around nervously at the lapping, assuaging waves, his shotgun ready to use. Young Margaret struggled wildly against the ropes in vain, tears streaming down her face.
The Brown-haired Man cut the engine. The white speedboat slowed to a halt, and silence reigned. Even Margaret's whimpering seemed muted. The Brown-haired Man's eyes scanned the horizon attentively, fearfully. Satisfied that they were alone, he turned back to Margaret.
"I swear I didn't say anything!!" she sobbed. "Let me go, leave me alone!!"
He didn't answer her. Instead, he pulled a small pocketknife out of his jeans and started towards her. Margaret squirmed wildly against the ropes that bound her. He grabbed her shoulder roughly - and cut the ropes off with the knife.
Margaret started to cry again as he forced her hands behind her back and marched her to the prow of the speedboat. She stared down into the swirling, indigo-blue waters of the Pacific and kicked furiously at her captor.
"Quiet!" the Brown-haired Man growled.
"Let me go already!"
"I warned you not to tell anyone. I've been watching you and your friend. She's next. I told you not to tell, and this is what you get for it!"
With that, he gave her a tough shove in the back. Margaret screamed and toppled overboard into the sea.
The Brown-haired Man started up the engine again. He raced quickly away from the still blue waters, back to the safety of the dock and the shore. By the time Margaret's head broke the surface, he was too far away to reach.
She shook salt water from her light-brown hair and shivered in the freezing cold water. She had to get out of here. There was little time. She forced herself to start kicking, pull one arm in front of the other, taking long, powerful strokes, just as she learned in swimming class.
She swam for five whole minutes without stopping. It would be useless to call for help; she had to save her energy. there was no telling how far she was from the shore. The cold water of the Pacific numbed her arms and legs, making it harder and harder to force them forward. She stopped and tread water and tried to catch her breath, tried to think.
It was then that she noticed the approaching shark's fin.
Her eyes widened with total fear, her breath came in ragged gasps. She forced her arms into motion again, kicking and paddling furiously towards a shore that was miles away.
The shark's fin drew closer and started to rise out of the water. Than a spike appeared behind the fin. Then another spike. Then another. Blue and black scales rose, dripping slaty sea water. It was coming closer.
Margaret's strokes seemed to be taking her nowhere. She glanced behind her quickly, catching only a glimpse of the enormous reptilian head, the jaws gaping open, the glaring yellow eyes staring down at her hungrily. Then she felt something grab her leg and tow her beneath the surface.
The Brown-haired man turned the white speedboat towards the empty dock, deaf to the screams of the young girl and the gurgling roar of the Malikudda. He breathed heavily, letting his fear br released through his exhaling. He wasn't about to let the consequences of his actions take control.
Scully was only half-awake. She didn't plan to wake up entirely for a long time yet. A busy day lay ahead of her and Mulder, and she wanted to put it off as long as she could. The dawn's sunlight streamed through the window of their hotel room, warming Scully's bed with its pleasant glow. Scully sighed with brief contentment and let her head sink back into the comfortable pillows. Just a few more minutes...
"Scully!!" A large hand gripped her shoulder and began shaking her roughly. "Scully, wake up!!!"
Scully looked up at Mulder groggily, locks of red hair hanging in her face. She groaned loudly and buried her head in the covers. "Just five more minutes, Mulder...."
"No, Scully, look," he waved an issue of 'Malibu Surfside News' in her face. "I just got today's paper. Margaret Lewison's been kidnaped."
The first thing Scully noticed was the broken window. The sunlight shone brilliantly through the jagged hole and onto the shards of glass and ripped covers that littered the bedroom floor. Agent Mulder stepped inside the tiny bedroom and gazed around at the ransacked mess. Scully followed him inside.
"Not the neatest of jobs. I bet there'll be fingerprints all over the place." He looked at Margaret's bed. The covers had been yanked off. Nail polish and a spilled Dr. Pepper stained the thick white carpet. "Looks like there was a struggle."
Scully got out of the doorway to let more policemen in. Mulder glanced over at her expectantly. "Scully, I think this is somehow connected to the Malikudda."
"How?" Scully asked, gesturing at the littered bedroom.
"Margaret and Rachel told us that the man by the strange whirlpool had told them that if they told anyone what they saw, he would kill them. Somehow, he must have found out that they spoke to us."
"You mean Margaret Lewison's been *murdered*?"
"Or is going to be soon."
Scully glanced anxiously out the broken window, wandering what they should do next. Then she noticed something.
"What are *they* doing here?!"
Mulder followed her gaze out the window and groaned. "Jake, Antonio and Darthman. Great. Wait here, I'll settle this."
"Wait!" Scully started after him. "Rachel Williams is with them!"
Mulder and Scully pushed their way through crowds of policeman analyzing the crime scene and out the front door. More police cars lined the front walk by the large, white-brick house. But there was also Jake and Antonio's rusty-red pickup and Darthman's lifeguard truck. The three were in the middle of an extremely heated argument when Mulder and Scully walked up.
"We didn't do anything, already! You're always blaming everything on us!" Jake bellowed.
"Then why do you have the girl's friend with you?!" Darthman shouted back.
"She's my girlfriend!"
"The heck she's your girlfriend! For all I know she could be -"
"Well, aren't we the happy family," Mulder broke in irritably. "Mind explaining to us what exactly is going on?"
"And one person at a time!" Scully added.
"He thinks we kidnaped Margaret Lewison!" Antonio jabbed a thumb at Darthman. "He thinks we murdered her!"
"What makes you think they kidnaped her?" Mulder asked Darthman.
"They have Margaret's friend Rachel with them. They were probably going to do something to her, too."
"Can somebody let me speak?" Rachel, who had been standing behind Antonio, shoved the two surfers out of her way and walked up to Mulder and Scully. It was apparent that she had been having a hard time with this. Her cheeks were tear-streaked and her face was slightly pale.
"He's taken her."
"Who?" Mulder asked.
'*This* sounds familiar...' Scully thought to herself.
"That man," Rachel sobbed. "The man we saw at the whirlpool. He's found out what we did, and he killed her. He's going to try and get me, too."
Mulder and Scully exchanged glances. "Are you *sure* it was that man?"
"I *know* he was. I saw his speedboat out there this morning, on the Pacific. Just cruising back and forth. I didn't know what was wrong...and then I found out that Margaret was gone. I didn't know what to do. I went to Jake, and he drove me here..."
"Wait," Mulder stopped her. "You say you saw him out there? Do you know if he's still there?"
"Probably. Last time I checked..."
"Scully, come on!" Mulder gripped her arm excitedly. "He's probably still there. If we hurry, we can catch him in time. Let's go!!"
Mulder dragged Scully away from the group and to their car. "Wait, Mulder, we need to inform the authorities what we're doing, we need to have some backup in case..."
"We'll call them on the way!" he urged her on. "We don't have much time, hurry!!" Mulder shoved her into the rental car, jumped in, and started the vehicle down to Zuma beach. Jake, Antonio, Rachel and Darthman watched them go, completely baffled by the entire situation.
Zuma beach, Malibu
The waves pounded unmercifully against the dock posts as the two agents drove the rental car to the edge of the pier. It seemed as if they were going to drive off the edge of the world. The clouded blue sky of the early morning met the grey-blue ocean at a seemingly tangible horizon.
The car stopped close to the edge of the pier. Mulder got out and quickly pulled out a pair of binoculars from his pocket. Scully watched him, puzzled, as he scanned the horizon attentively.
"You think that man is still out there?" she extended an open palm towards the ocean.
He's *got* to be. And hopefully, where we find him, we'll find the Malikudda."
"Scully, you don't need to tell me that you don't believe in sea monsters. I know you think I'm being imprudent chasing after something that doesn't exist, that we should be trying to catch the guy responsible for the kidnaping."
"But I seriously think that the guy is not the whole story. He may play a part, but I don't think he's the *real* murderer. It's something bigger..."
"Mulder, stop talking and look at what I'm trying to show you!!" Scully was shaking his shoulder and jabbing a finger down at the water below them. Mulder followed her gaze. A brown-haired man in a white speedboat was racing right by them, headed for the shore!
Mulder and Scully wasted no time. They scrambled for the car doors, got inside, started the engine, did a sharp U-turn on the wide pier and shot back towards the mainland. The car accelerated along the wooden planks, creating a chorus of clanks and thumps. The speedboat reached the dock just as the rental car reached the end of the pier.
The Brown-haired Man watched the two FBI agents leap out of the car, guns and badges ready. He turned and raced along the dock until he came to an old, white Cherokee. The engine started almost the moment he jumped into the driver's seat.
"Back to the car!" Scully ordered. She and Mulder sprinted back across the dock and reentered the rental car, knowing now that they would never be able to overtake him on foot. The Cherokee and the rental car tore across the wooden dock for a distance before the large jeep pulled off right onto the sand of the beach.
Mulder attempted to follow; he yanked the steering wheel sharply to the left and shot the car into the sand. It bounced and swerved like a dare-devil motorcycle, but it was going fast enough to cruise over the sand instead of getting stuck in it.
"Mulder, slow down!" Scully hollered, gripping the seat edge with chalk-white knuckles as the car propelled across the sand. The Cherokee rammed through an empty beach blanket and umbrella stakeout, sending chairs and sodas flying. Mulder and Scully ricocheted through the debris.
The Cherokee reached the end of the beach. It bounced over the sidewalk, through the parking lot and onto the main highway. The rental car was not far behind. The two agents bounced up and down in their seats as the car sailed over the edge of the sidewalk and scraped against a parked Porsche' with an agonizing squeal. The Cherokee was far down the highway when Mulder and Scully got out of the parking lot.
"Mulder, it's going to be difficult to catch up with him now, especially if he turns onto the freeway," Scully warned.
"We can't let him get away."
Scully could tell that Mulder was not about to let her talk him out of starting a high speed road-race with this guy. He pushed his foot down on the gas pedal and accelerated forward, hearing the grinding and crunching of sand still stuck in the engine. The Cherokee was several cars ahead of them and picking up speed.
Mulder maneuvered their vehicle in and out of passing sports cars and utility vehicles, all the while honking his horn for the man to stop. He was obviously very desperate to get away. The road led them along the beach and then finally through a canyon within the hills. The road went in and out through the winding hills for a good ten minutes. Mulder didn't want to speed up the car too fast lest they should go sailing over the edge of a cliff into the canyon on a sharp turn, even though there were no other cars nearby. But then, the two cars turned off the winding hills road and onto the freeway. And, almost instantly, were stuck in traffic.
Mulder shook the steering wheel with obvious frustration. Scully remained calm, if not just annoyed, and pulled out her cell phone. "Hello, I need to speak to the Malibu police chief and chief coast guard...I know, but put them on anyway! Yes, sir?...this is Agent Dana Scully, sir. We've spotted the suspect for kidnaping, he's on the 101 freeway, heading north. No, he doesn't have the girl with him. We're on the 101 also, but we're stuck in traffic and we can't catch up to him. We don't know where he's going. We need immediate backup..."
Mulder waited and drove while Scully listened. Her face dropped with irritance. "What do you mean, you can't be here for another hour? It only took us ten minutes to get on the freeway! Oh...oh, fine. This is going to make it tough. Yes, I'll phone you then and tell you where we are. Alright." Scully switched off the phone and put it back in her pocket.
"What's going on?"
"The police can't be here for another hour. They have to completely finish the first investigation and get the troops together. We're on our own until then."
The traffic was not too bad. The car was still moving at a reasonably fast pace. But because there were so many cars, it was impossible for them to actually catch up to the suspect. Mulder attempted to maneuver around the endless lines of cars and trucks. But they still weren't close enough, and even if they did catch up to him, what good would it do in the middle of the freeway?
"We might be in for a long ride," Mulder sighed, setting the car at an even pace. "There's no telling when this guy's going to stop."
Mulder's words proved to be true. The rental car was cruising down the freeway for another 45 minutes without any sign of letting up. Mile after mile of brown and green hills rolled by, and every once in a while, a few buildings. Every couple of turns they would get a glimpse of the mud and dirt-splattered Cherokee, but then it would be lost again. The only thing that remained constant was the cars, the road, and the blue sky above them. Mulder switched on the radio and began lip-synching to "Spirit in the Sky". Scully kept a weary eye on the Cherokee, looking for any sign of it turning onto an exit.
"Hey, if we're lucky, we'll be on World's Scariest Police Chases 18," Mulder commented suddenly. Scully gave him a tired glare.
"And if you're lucky, you'll be on World's Most Idiotic FBI Agents. We should have called for instant backup the moment we decided to apprehend this guy. But you just *insist* that we take off without another moment's thought in a ridiculous hope that we'll be able to catch someone three steps ahead of us at the moment."
"Sounds like a plan to me."
"Whether or not it's a good plan is yet to be determined..."
"Scully..." Mulder was looking out through the windshield. "Ever think of taking a day off?"
Standing right by the highway was an enormous wooden sign that exclaimed "SIX FLAGS, MAGIC MOUNTAIN", in bold, bright letters.
Scully's jaw dropped. "He's going to the amusement park!!"
The white Cherokee turned off the freeway and onto an exit labeled "Magic Mountain Parkway". Mulder and Scully stared at each other for a moment, then followed him down the hill. The Cherokee and the rental car followed a long line of cars right into the middle of the line for the entrance fee to Magic Mountain.
"I don't believe this!!" Mulder exclaimed. "Of all the places for a guy to hide, he goes to an *amusement park!*"
"Well, if you think about it, Mulder, it's actually a good idea. With so many people and buildings crammed into one area, it would be very easy to lose track of a single person."
Mulder groaned. "When is our backup supposed to get here?"
"If the traffic is as bad as it was before, about an hour."
Mulder groaned even louder. "Scully, do you know what the *chances* are of us finding *one* person in a crowd of *thousands*?!"
"About 23,684 to one."
"Oh, shut up."
"Well, come on," Scully urged. "We have to follow him and try and keep an eye on him until the Malibu police arrive."
Mulder wasn't listening. "Six dollars for a parking fee?!! What a rip!"
"Just flash the badge."
"And how fair do you think that would be to the people who actually have to pay?"
"You want to pay 60 bucks, be my guest!"
The rental car drove up to the entrance fee booth. An overweight, bald guard stared at them suspiciously with piggy eyes. "Six dollars parking for one day," he said, face completely deadpan.
"I'm Agent Mulder, and this is Agent Scully, we're with the FBI," Mulder flashed his badge. "We have reason to believe that a-"
"And I'm Prince William. Six dollars parking for one day," the guard repeated flatly.
"Sir, we're in the middle of an investigation, and the FBI has permission to-"
"You either park here or you don't," the guard growled back. "You're holding up the line."
Mulder drove into the Magic Mountain parking lot with six dollars less in his wallet. He and Scully parked the rental car as close to the entrance as possible, then quickly got out of the car. They glanced all around at the parking lot, and up at a large, wooden, white roller coaster that loomed over them. Screams of either terror or joy could be heard from the people sitting in the cars that raced down the track.
"Mulder, look," Scully pointed to their left. There was the familiar white Cherokee, splattered over with sand and mud and spilled soda.
Mulder nodded in acknowledgment. "Right, let's go."
They ran towards the park entrance, knowing they had little time to waste. A long walkway through trees led them straight to the entrance ticket booth...and another series of long lines.
"I am *not* paying 60 bucks to lose my lunch and possibly my mind, too," Mulder said decisively. He and Scully pushed, shoved and fought their way through crowds of people in line to get in and reached one of the ticket booths.
"Mulder, FBI," he said simply, stopping at the booth only to slap his badge against the window, and then sprint into the park. The ticket salesman stared after the two agents with shock as they ran headlong into the crowded amusement park.
They repeated the process at the ticket checker, although he seemed to be reluctant to let them in. But by the time Mulder and Scully actually got inside, it seemed all hope of catching their suspect their suspect was gone.
For a moment, they stood there in an open plaza, unsure of what to do. Then they both began to run frantically to and fro, forgetting procedure and thinking only of apprehending the kidnaper. They ran through candy and clothes stores, around crowds, under roller coasters that loomed overhead and in and out of restaurants for a whole 30 minutes before finally stopping to catch their breath by a large concrete sign displaying pictures of "The Greatest Roller Coasters of All Time". The whoops and screams of tourists an another coaster above them echoed overhead.
"This isn't going to work," Scully said, gasping for breath. "We have no idea where to look."
Mulder wiped sweat from his brow and pulled out a map of the park he had picked up earlier. He scanned it for a minute. "Any idea where he could have gone?"
Scully shook her head no. The screams of the coaster-riders roared by again. She pulled out her cell phone an dialed a number. Mulder though while Scully told the coast guard what had happened and what was going on. She sighed with frustration at his reply, then hung up.
"They can be here in 30 minutes. When they come, we'll have enough men to spread out across the park and track him down. but until then, there's really nothing more we can do."
Mulder gazed up at the merciless sun beating down on them. In California, it was *hot*, even in the winter. He motioned to Scully, and they began to walk again. "We just have to keep looking."
They started back along the long, broad sidewalk, this time walking much slower. This part of the park had few small attractions, a pretzel stand here, a little kiddie ride there. Then Scully glanced over at the entrance to the roller coaster above them. The word 'VIPER' was painted in large letters on the wall. She looked at the sign, at the track over their heads, at the overhang that shaded people standing in lime. A slow smile spread across her face.
"Mulder..." she said slowly, casually.
"I was just thinking...since we aren't probably going to be able to locate our suspect until the police arrive and we have nothing else to do... and since we *are* here, and we did pay six bucks for parking...maybe we could try a ride, just once..."
Mulder stared at Scully, then at the roller coaster. Scully. Roller coaster. His jaw dropped. "Scully...you're kidding me, right? You don't actually want to go on a ride, do you?!"
"Of course I do! Come on, just once, the line's extremely short..."
"Scully, no! Absolutely not! We *can't* ride a roller coaster right now!"
She tugged on his arm and motioned towards the line entrance. "Oh, come on! It'll be fun."
"Scully, we're FBI agents, we're supposed to be looking for a kidnaper, not going on rides! This is very unprofessional..."
"Scully studied him suspiciously. "You're scared of the ride."
"I am not, I'm just..."
"Admit it, you're scared! You're such a wimp! Come on, just once, I've always wanted to do this!"
"I am not a wimp! We just..."
"Stop calling me that!"
"Then come on the ride!"
Mulder glanced up at the red and white track and swallowed nervously. "Um...............alright. But only *once*, and as soon as we're done..."
"All right!" Scully gripped his arm and sprinted for the line entrance. "Come on, Mulder, it'll be fun!"
"Easy for *you* to say..."
Scully excitedly ran through the near-empty line area and up a flight of stairs with Mulder tagging along behind her. There was practically no line, just some people at the very front waiting for the next train.
"Let's sit in the front!!"
"I am not!"
"You are too!"
"Scully, for goodness sakes, we sound like a bunch of little kids! We're not even supposed to be doing this."
Scully ignored him and pulled him into the line for the front row. There were only four people ahead of them, so they would get to ride in the third train that came around. Mulder glanced around nervously at the overhang filled with people, listening to the ear-splitting clanking of each train going up the track.
It was clear that Scully was excited by this. The line moved quickly and soon their train rolled in and stopped in front of them, letting out a squeal of screeching rubber. The people who had just ridden got out, and the doors opened for the next people to get in.
Mulder and Scully climbed into the two, incredibly-small front row seats. Mulder looked around vainly for a seat belt. "Scully, I don't think this is safe..."
"See, I *told* you you were scared! Look, there's a shoulder harness right here."
"I'd get better security from toilet paper and spandex, for crying out loud!" Mulder mumbled, but he strapped it on over his shoulders anyway. Scully did the same. Mulder looked up at the steep hill ahead of them and panicked.
"This thing doesn't have loops, does it?"
"It's got three!"
"I *hate* loops!"
"Stop calling me that!"
Unfortunately for Mulder, the harness locked in and the train began to make a grinding noise as it started up the hill. The seats tilted abruptly at a 45 degree angle. The train made an incredibly loud clanking and thunking noise as it chugged uphill.
"Scully, I don't want to go!"
"Too late now!"
"I didn't realize how high it was!"
"Mulder, we're not even at the top yet! You're such a wimp!"
"I am not a wimp!"
"Scully, we're FBI agents! Since when did FBI agents ride a roller coaster during an investigation?!"
"Did you say you were FBI agents?!!" and excited teenage voice came from the row behind them.
"I thought you didn't enjoy following procedure!"
"Suddenly procedure sounds a lot more inviting!"
"Hey, Blake, there's FBI agents in the front row!"
"I'm serious, Mulder, you are such a wimp!"
"Stop calling me that already!!"
"Are you looking for a serial killer?!"
"I wanna be an FBI agent when I grow up!"
"I'm gonna choke on this shoulder harness!"
The train neared the very top of the hill; two red flags waving in the wind. "Hey, maybe we can see the kidnaper from up here!" Scully yelled.
"No I can't," Mulder replied, eyes squeezed shut.
"Can I see your badge?"
"I'll show it to you after the ride!!"
"For crying out loud, Sculliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!"
Mulder's comment was turned into a horrified cry as the train suddenly plunged down several stories. Mulder felt his stomach fly up into his throat as the train plummeted towards the ground...and then rose up again as it prepared to run a loop.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!" Mulder roared.
"WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" Scully whooped.
Her red-gold hair went flying into her face as the whole world suddenly turned upside down and dropped again. The train jerked sideways sharply, plastering the two agents to their seats and flinging them sideways.
Mulder roared in anguish as he saw two *more* loops, approaching, one right after the other. The train flew upside down again. "S-SC-SC-SC-SC-SCUL-UL-UL-UL-LIE-LIE-IE-IE-IE-EE!! GET ME OFFA THIS TH-TH-TH-TH-IIIIING!!!!!"
"WOOOOOOO-HOOOOO!!!" Scully whooped again.
The world flipped right side up again, then upside down, then lingered on the second loop, and then plummeted down again. Mulder and Scully were thrown forwards, then sideways, backwards, forwards, and every other direction imaginable. The train lurched upwards and slowed.
"SCULLY, I'M GONNA KILL YOU WHEN WE GET OFF THIS THIIIIIIAAAAAAAANG!!!"
The train picked up speed and dropped sharply. And *then* it twisted into a sideways-double-loop. The train seemed to hang upside down on the track for hours, putting strain on the harnesses. Scully's red hair hung down across her face as she surveyed the sky below her and the people and buildings above her.
Sideways, then upside down again.
There was another sharp turn that slowly leveled out the train. Mulder though his troubles were over...and then the track twisted into a corkscrew form. The train chugged over, around and upside down at a-n a-g-o-n-i-z-i-n-g-l-y slooooooooow pace, giving Mulder plenty of time to confess all of his sins from the past couple of months and promise to take out the trash every Thursday.
The corkscrew leveled out and twisted into a sharp turn, then banked to the right quickly and screeched to a halt at the place where they had first started.
Scully's neatly combed-hair hung in pieces over her face. She was still laughing and whooping; her mind still recovering from the shock of the thrilling twists and loops. "Let's go again!!"
Mulder's face was pale, his hair a complete wreck, chalk-white knuckles gripping the shoulder harness. He gasped for breath, still trying to figure out if he was still alive or if his ghost was sitting next to Scully. He looked over at her with a horror-stricken face. "I can't believe my own partner tried to kill me!!"
"Hey, it wouldn't be the first time!" let's go again!"
The shoulder harnesses unlocked, and Mulder and Scully walked drunkenly out of the train and down a flight of stairs. They reached the sidewalk with Mulder leaning on Scully's shoulder.
"I've got a headache..."
"I haven't felt so utterly terrified since...since..."
"I'm trying to decide between when Linda Bowmen disguised herself as you and made me think you shot yourself, or when Samantha was taken, or when I found my dad dead on the bathroom floor, or when you told me you had Cancer, or when they injected that stuff in the back of my neck, or when..."
"Okay, I get the message," Scully pushed her hair out of her face. "It's just a roller coaster. Now straighten up, we're going out to look for the kidnaper again."
"Whatever you say..."
They started back down the sidewalk again. More people began to get in line for 'VIPER' and the sun began the first few minutes of its journey to the west horizon. Scully looked at Mulder.
"Have you decided yet?"
"What was the one time you were as utterly terrified as you were on 'VIPER'?"
"When that hooded guy was about to decapitate you."
"Ha, ha. Very funny."
The two agents wound their way through a maze of food stands, stores, restaurants, entrances to rides and people. Scully's sense of post-coaster-thrill and excitement began to be replaced by the knowledge that they had to get back to business.
She knew what their suspect looked like, and she scanned the faces in the crowd for a familiar one. So far, he was nowhere to be seen. They passed the entrance to a water-rafting ride and another roller coaster that looked like it would collapse any minute. They had just approached what looked like a ride that was cross between bungee-jumping and skydiving when Scully's cell phone rang.
She picked it up. "Scully. Yes...yes, good, that's good. Yes...we're already in the park. We've been looking for him. No, no sign of him yet. He must be here somewhere. Yes...alright. Spread out all over the place. Yes... good. We'll be there."
Mulder looked at Scully expectantly. "The Malibu police and coast guard have arrived, and they've brought enough men to track the kidnaper and capture him. They're spreading out all around the park right now; we have to meet them at the main entrance," she explained.
"Then let's get moving," Mulder replied. They broke into a jog, pushing through crowds of excited tourists and awestruck sightseers. Mulder was glad they were finally leaving Magic Mountain; he was worried that Scully would want to go on *another* roller coaster.
Right on cue, Scully pointed towards another green and black coaster track. "Look, that one has *six* loops! Let's go on *that*!"
"Oh, Scully, no...."
"Mulder..." Scully suddenly became very serious and tense. She was staring at something within the next wave of the crowd that approached them. A barely-familiar, short, brown-haired face...
She gripped her partner's arm. "Mulder, it's him. I see the kidnaper!"
"You do? Where?"
"Right ahead of us."
"Are you sure it's him?"
"Yes, I recognize his face and everything."
"Are you positive?"
The man was getting closer.
Mulder and Scully drew their badges and guns. "Alright, let's move," Mulder whispered.
They jogged slowly at first, then picked up speed and began to run, gazes fixed intently on their victim. The man noticed them as well. His eyes widened with surprise and horror as he recognized the two agents who had tracked him here...
He ran, pushing other tourists out of his path. Mulder and Scully ran faster.
"Stop! Federal Agents!!" Scully shouted at the top of her lungs. The man ignored her and kept running. The crowds quickly parted as Mulder and Scully barged through.
"I said stop!!!" Scully roared again. This time, the man did stop...sort of. The kidnaper turned around to see how close the agents were - and ran smack dab into an enormous Marvin the Martian. The man hit the concrete hard.
Mulder and Scully leaped into the fray, guns and badges ready. Scully landed on the man's chest and pointed her gun at his throat. "FBI! Don't move!!"
Mulder pulled out a pair of handcuffs from his pocket. "You're under arrest for kidnaping and possible murder. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you..."
Mulder was about halfway through his required speech when a familiar voice from the crowd called, "Alright, it's the FBI guys! Hey, Blake, they caught the serial killer!!" A large crowd of onlookers stopped in a circle around the two agents, staring with open mouths and whispering in shocked tones. Mulder forced the man to his feet and slapped the handcuffs on him.
Scully pulled out her cell phone. "Chief, we've got him, meet us here as soon as possible. We're right by a ride called 'THE RIDDLER'S REVENGE'. Yes, that's great. Thanks.
"The police are coming right this minute," Scully informed Mulder when she hung up the phone. Mulder glanced around at the ever-growing crowd of shocked and curious onlookers. The crowd parted while Mulder continued to blurt out the remainder of the warrant statement and forced him to march.
They had not gone very far with their prisoner when several men in blue and black law enforcement uniforms and several more in park security uniforms surrounded them. Mulder handed the man over to the Malibu police chief. "We'll take care of him," the police chief assured them. The two agents, the security guards and the policemen moved out of the crowds and started towards the park exit.
Mulder glanced up at the sky. "Looks like rain."
"Very funny, Mulder."
"No, Scully, I'm serious," he pointed towards the heavens. "I think it's gonna rain soon." Indeed, the clouds above them had begun to swirl and grow threateningly. Scully shrugged with astonishment and rejoined the policemen.
Malibu Police Headquarters
Rachel stared at Dr. Nicholas Norheiff with accusing, sincere, dark-brown eyes. Margaret's necklace had been found in the white speedboat on the dock, and the coast guard had found scraps of material from her nightshirt littering the shore. Rachel's feeling of grief and sorrow had long since been replaced by complete anger and hatred towards her friend's murderer.
"Rachel?" Scully opened the door and looked at her. "Could you step outside now? The police need to talk to Dr. Norheiff."
Rachel said nothing, but glared one last time at him and walked out. She met up with Jake, Antonio and Darthman in the hall, and they started down the hallway. Even though it was clear that Jake and Antonio had nothing to do with the situation, the lifeguard was still following their every move.
Mulder came up to Scully, a large packet of folders under one arm. She sighed at the man within the confinement-questioning room and turned to Mulder. "Did you talk to him?"
"The whole bit," Mulder replied, launching into his explanation. "He admits that he did kidnap Margaret Lewison, that the white speedboat at the dock is his own, and that he did take her to a spot somewhere on the Pacific ocean and threw her overboard. The coast guard has been searching, but they haven't found the body yet. The man still hasn't explained his motives yet. They're giving him ten years sentence so far."
"Who is he?" Scully asked.
Mulder opened the packet of folders and flipped through them. "His name is Dr. Nicholas Norheiff, he's 39 years old. He's worked at the Hughes Research Institute for the past six years, but then he was fired. No record of close family; no record of previous criminal offenses."
Scully thought for a moment. "It doesn't make any sense as to why he would kidnap a 15-year old girl and throw her into the Pacific."
"Rachel had identified him as the man she and Margaret met out on the ocean eight months ago."
"That still doesn't explain anything."
Mulder flipped through the folders again. "For the first year and a half at H.R.I, he specialized in atomic and subatomic technology. He was very knowledgeable in the field and became assistant director over all subatomic technology researching and field testing.
He worked with atom smashers for a long time, and it was said that he invented a miniature atom smasher that could accelerate the speed of atoms to the speed of light. It would be a tremendous breakthrough in science, a device that could break the barrier of time and space. Possibly could even create a wormhole on earth."
Scully raised her eyebrows. "Did he ever accomplish this?"
"Almost. He had almost perfected his invention when the H.R.I. began to cut down on his funding. Told him his methods were unorthodox and his ideas ridiculous. This only made him more determined to break the time/space barrier. He literally went nuts over his work. And then, all of a sudden, he was kicked out of H.R.I, lab and all. I never found out why."
"When was he fired?"
"About eight months ago, early February," Mulder glanced at his partner. "Around the time Margaret and Rachel found the strange whirlpool."
Mulder and Scully began to walk down the hall, both deep in thought. "Did you ask him about any of this when you questioned him?"
"He told me very little; he seemed to be reluctant to talk about his work. But he did tell me why he kept returning to the Pacific..."
"His invention, the miniature atom smasher, is lying on the bottom of the Pacific. He says that it was part of his 'experiment'. But something went wrong during the experiment, and he left his instrument there. And he's also demanding to have it returned to him."
Scully was feeling even more confused. "What kind of experiment could you do with a miniature atom smasher in the middle of the ocean?"
Mulder gave her a peculiar look. "Something that breaks the barrier of time and space? A wormhole in the ocean? A dimension door?"
"It's not possible, Mulder," Scully argued. "There's absolutely no such thing as lost dimensions, and certainly not *sea monsters* from other dimensions."
"But would it be a possibility?" Mulder interrupted. "Atoms being forced to travel at the speed of light in a strong gravitational pull? Something *must* happen, something that affects and changes and alters all surrounding time, space, sound everything. An instrument that can open up the door to an entirely different dimension. If used properly, could possibly even be a means of time travel."
Mulder stopped his partner. "I think Dr. Norheiff *did* create an atom smasher that really worked. It he *did* attempt to test it in a place where it would be the least obvious: the middle of the ocean. And that when he placed the object on the ocean floor, it opened up a makeshift dimension door. And then, that's when the Malikudda came in. It swam through the door on accident.
And when Dr. Norheiff realized what he had done, he was terrified. He had unknowingly unleashed a monster from another dimension. If anyone found out he had done this, he was finished. That's why he threatened Rachel and Margaret when they found the whirlpool. He wants to keep the origin of the Malikudda a secret."
Scully was obviously very skeptical. She was about to say something when Mulder continued. "We need to retrieve that miniature atom smasher. It's the key to this whole thing, it's how the Malikudda got here in the first place. We *have* to go down to the spot where he left it and look for it. If we can find it and somehow reverse it, we may be able to get rid of the Malikudda."
Scully sighed. "Mulder, I agree with you."
Mulder put on a look of total shock and surprise. "You do?"
"It all makes sense. If the man put an electronic device on the bottom of the ocean, particularly a subatomic accelerator instrument, it would completely explain the attacks on people..."
Mulder's face dropped. "You don't believe me."
"No, I think that the atom smasher device that the man dropped is sending out some sort of strange electronic signal that is altering the behavior of the local marine life. The electronic signal is attracting sharks and causing them to attack people instead of feeding on their normal diet of fish."
"But that doesn't explain Margaret's drawing. Or the satellite photos. Or the teeth marks on Sarge's surfboard. I've never heard of a shark with teeth eight inches long and two inches wide."
"All those can be explained easily," Scully counterattacked. "But either way you look at it, it's still vital that we retrieve that atom smasher device. Once we get it and examine it, we'll finally be able to solve this case, and that'll be the end of this Malikudda. We'll make arrangements tonight at the hotel; get some men and equipment for scuba-diving."
Mulder sighed in exasperation. Scully had killed their conversation; there was nothing more for him to say. Scully could tell that Mulder was upset and annoyed. No one believed him.
"Come on, I want to talk to Dr. Norheiff myself before they lock him up. Then we can make arrangements with the coast guard and other people..."
Zuma beach, Malibu
The sun peeked through the clouds, unsure if it should make itself known to the world as the days rolled into the month of December. Despite this fact, the beach was still crowded, and the sand still stinging hot. The waves became more fierce and frequent as high tide approached.
There were mostly Malibu frequents, teens and young adults that lay on a towel or in the sand on the backs, hoping to burn their skin with enough radiation to darken it, but not enough to give them cancer. Then there were the large groups of families, the adults far outnumbered by the noisy kids that dug holes in the sand, chased sea gulls and splashed happily in the surf. There were the loners who sat in beach chairs reading romance novels, the surfers and boggie-boarders, and the occasional lifeguard on the lookout. The only difference was that the number of Malibu frequents had decreased; they were still weary of the water after hearing reports of the deadly Malikudda. But other than that, Zuma beach was still in full swing.
Jeffery Quinn did not notice the crowds on the beach, or the sun attempting to find a hole in the blanket of clouds. He concentrated only on watching the waves, studying each ripple to see if it could be a good one. Jeffery had taken up bodyboarding about a month ago, and he loved it. No waxing boards, no getting snagged on rocks, all you needed was your own body and a wave.
All he needed now was the wave. But all of the big waves were breaking too close to shore, and he was too far out to get anything but ripples. The Pacific ocean felt cold and clammy against his skin that wasn't covered by his wetsuit. He decided to give it up for the day; the waves just weren't working out. Perhaps tomorrow, after the lecture he had to attend at Pepperdine...
Something suddenly brushed against his leg.
Jeffery felt it only for a second. Something large, possibly even scaly. He could feel it moving through the water around him. A shark? Or just a piece of drifting kelp that had gotten tangled around his leg? Jeffery wasn't going to stick around to find out. He moved his arms in powerful strokes in the direction of the beach, now ready to head back in.
The thing touched his leg again. Only this time it was a harder grip, as if someone had grabbed him from below. An incredibly strong force tugged him under the water, giving him no time to scream for help.
Jeffery fought madly against the thing that ensnared his leg...but what was it? He could barely make out the shape of it's head, covered over in scales and webbed-like spikes down its back and face. And two dark, unblinking eyes staring back at him through the darkness...eyes watching him intently, hungrily.
And then it happened. But it happened so fast that he couldn't believe it. The jaws of the creature snapped once over his right arm, then let go. Jeffery screamed in panic and kicked towards the surface, scales and bubbles and blood surrounding him.
His head broke the surface just as he ran out of air. He glanced to him right and screamed again.
His arm was gone.
Where one of his limbs should have been was now a ripped, bloody stump. The thing had bitten off his arm completely. He was swimming in an ocean tinged red with his own blood. The thing was nowhere in sight.
"Help! Somebody help me!!"
The water was near freezing, but he felt very little of it. The wetsuit insulated most of his body from the temperature of the liquid and kept him warm. Despite this, he still felt a shiver run down his back as he descended down, down. The sound of his breathing echoed in his chest at a rhythmic pace, ticking away seconds of his time left in the air tanks. The utility belt and air tanks clunked and scraped against each other. He wondered how much further it was until the bottom...
His thoughts were interrupted by a rush of parting water and a bump against one side.
His head darted left, right, searching for the thing that had just touched him. There was nothing but the dark, impenetrable salt water. The echoes in his chest grew more quickly-paced. There was something else down here...
The bump came again, harder this time. He shined his flashlight in the direction that the feeling had come from.
The beam of the flashlight quivered in his hand as the thing came at him once more. An enormous, reptile-like head, long body, fearsome eyes and hundreds of teeth were looking back at him. And they were coming at him fast. The jaws were opened wide, and they were ready to spring like a steel trap.
The echoing in his chest became a thundering of frantic beating. His arms and legs and body went numb with terror and panic. He forced himself to dodge just as the monster rushed by him, tearing past in a rush of bubbles. But it turned back to him again, jaws open once more, this time determined not to miss. He didn't know what to do, how to do it. He knew only that he was about to be killed, that it was about to all end, and it completely paralyzed him. His instincts kicked into gear just as the thing was inches from his face...and it was too late.
The eight-inch teeth easily tore away the two wetsuits, one made of steel and the other made of rubber. He screamed as a horrific pain shot through his entire body. Snaps, crunches, ripping and tearing of his own flesh and bone and muscle reached his near-deaf ears. The monster gnashed its teeth on him, cutting off all feeling of any of his body parts. Blood stained the salt water and filled his darkening vision. He screamed again as more flesh was torn from his body. The thing chewed on him once more to make sure he was completely dead, then threw back its long neck to swallow...
Mulder awoke to complete darkness. The breathing in his chest sounded piercingly loud, or perhaps it was just from his horrified gasping for breath. His eyes slowly became adjusted to the darkness. There was the TV, the two chairs and table, and the moonlight filtering through the hotel bedroom window. Scully's bed was to his left. Scully mumbled something in her sleep and turned over, rustling the covers.
Cold sweat trickled from Mulder's dark hair and down his back. He wiped the sweat from his forehead tiredly, wearily. He looked over at the digital clock on the desk between the beds: 2:01 A.M. he groaned under his breath and laid his head back on the pillow. His breathing was slower now, more relaxed. Just a dream. Now he had to work on getting back to sleep, and that wasn't going to be easy.
Mulder allowed darkness to fill his vision once more. He needed to get to sleep. His eyelids closed in what he hoped was genuine sleep. He had gotten over his scare; it had only been a dream.
But Mulder knew that, more often than not, what he dreamed earlier became reality later...
Scully stared out the hotel window at the rain gloomily. She was sick of rain. All she ever saw back in D.C. was that stupid rain. The one time she and Mulder come to California, and it rains! It was more than just ironic to her, it was downright ridiculous.
She glanced at her watch, then at Mulder, who was looking at the paper. "We have to be at the dock at 11:00. Are you ready to go?"
Mulder glanced up from the paper worriedly. "Yeah, I'm ready. You ready?"
"What are you so nervous about?"
Mulder sighed. "Why do *we* have to be the ones to dive down and find that atom smasher device? Don't they have any more experienced scuba divers? Why us?!"
"I don't know, but it's not really our decision. I think it has to do with these special suits we need for diving. It won't be that hard, just go down, find the object and bring it back up. These people know what they're doing; they'll make sure we're safe."
Mulder didn't answer her. He was looking at the paper again.
He held up the headline for her to see: "MALIKUDDA STRIKES AGAIN: THREE VICTIMS IN ONE DAY".
"*Three* people, Scully," Mulder interrupted. "One person, Jeffery Quinn, had his right arm bitten off. He was screaming about a monster when the authorities talked to him. The other two people, Sarah King and Griffin Black, were reported missing, and they haven't been heard from yet. So diving down in the middle of monster-infested waters makes me uncomfortable, that's all."
"Mulder, we've been over this. There's no sea monster. It'll be fine. Come on, let's go, they're waiting on us.
dock at Zuma beach
The rain had let up, or at least it had for now. Mulder and Scully walked along the dock's wooden planks until reaching their destination: a large scientific research boat named 'The Stingray'. The agents recognized some of the coast guard men and some of the policemen. But mostly it was people who worked at H.R.I. and experienced divers that would tell them what to do.
But it was four other people that caught Mulder and Scully's attention the most: Jake, Antonio, Darthman and Rachel were there as well, talking among themselves. The two agents looked at each other, both with I-should've-seen-this-coming looks on their faces. Mulder pushed his way through H.R.I. researchers until he reached the odd foursome.
"What are *you* doing here?" he asked suspiciously.
Jake answered him. "We're here to watch you die, man."
Mulder sniffed at him with slight disdain. "I guess that's a good reason..."
"Actually, sir," Rachel corrected, "we came to see if maybe we could help. We're the ones who know what *really* happened, after all. We'll be able to tell when the Malikudda is coming."
"And *he's* just following us around," Antonio pointed at Darthman.
Scully caught up with Mulder. "They're going to cast off soon. We need to get aboard."
"Alright, let's go," Mulder motioned to the three teens and the lifeguard. They followed him across the dock and up the gangplank to the ship.
'The Stingray' was a well-equipped research ship. The vessel was coated with a coat of fine white paint that had not yet faded. Telescopes and large winces with cranks loaded down with wire to lower people into the water lined the deck. A newly-furnished captain's quarters stood at the prow of the ship, and there were several tracking and research stations below deck. Jake, Antonio, Rachel and Darthman went below deck to find a place to sit until they cast off. Mulder and Scully met up with a young woman in a wetsuit that was to be their instructor.
"Agents Mulder and Scully," she extended an open hand. "Katherine Rayman; you can call me Kat. I've heard the entire story from the coast guard and the people at H.R.I, I know what's going on. I'll be providing you with the equipment you need when you dive and giving you instructions on what to do."
Scully studied the young woman in her early twenties. She had sandy-blond hair, a fair complexion and nicely-tanned skin. Scully decided that she liked her, even though she usually didn't agree with good-looking women and Mulder being in the same area.
Kat motioned for the two agents to follow her. "Come on, we'll be casting off in five minutes. I'll show you around the ship."
The remainder of the H.R.I. scientists and the ship's crew finished boarding the ship. The H.R.I. people consisted mostly of marine biologist and zoologists, as well as a few subatomic-technology specialists. As soon as Scully had explained to the police what they had learned of Dr. Norheiff's experiment and the necessity of finding his invention, the H.R.I. scientists had immediately agreed to the idea and had set up the expedition. The only trick was, Mulder and Scully were the ones voted to dive 100 feet down into the Pacific and retrieve the object.
A whistle sounded on the prow, and the gangplank was raised. A few sailors on the dock helped untie the ropes that held the research ship. The clouds massed and the waves slapped against the hull as 'The Stingray' chugged out to sea.
Mulder stood on the prow of the ship while Scully talked with Kat. The ocean was a deep indigo blue with a slight green tinge. The water churned and frothed from blue to white in the wake of the big ship. Mulder stared down at the sea thoughtfully, wondering what sort of creature could be watching him through the blanket of opaque liquid beneath him...
After a while, he sighed and turned away from the water. There was no use worrying about it now; they had a job to do. The ship plowed through the water at a moderate pace. Dolphins raced the ship for the first few minutes, then swam away. Sunlight filtered through the passing clouds at intervals, giving the atmosphere a strange, lukewarm feeling. A full 30 minutes passed with no sign of them stopping.
Mulder had gone back to look over the prow again when the ship suddenly ground to a halt. There were no waves this far out; the water was perfectly calm. Scully walked up and tapped him on the shoulder. "We're there. The H.R.I. scientists have determined that this is the place where we should find Dr. Norheiff's invention. Come on, let's go get ready."
Scully led Mulder to the center of the ship where Kat, Jake, Antonio, Rachel and Darthman and all of the scientists were gathered. Kat had out two set of diving clothing and equipment. She was shaking her head and groaning with frustration.
"What is it?" Mulder asked when he came up to her.
"We have a problem with one of the diving suits...yours, in fact."
Mulder raised his eyebrows. "Huh?"
"There's a large hole in your steelsuit, down the side of it. It's your most protective piece of equipment, and it's vital that you have it."
"Well...isn't there something we can do? Patch up the hole? Put on another wetsuit over it?" Mulder stuttered, looking back at Scully worriedly.
"The hole would take months to repair. We only have two available steelsuits; they are very expensive, thousands of dollars each. But I'm not about to send a person down in these waters without a steelsuit, especially with all these frequent shark attacks I've been hearing about. I'm sorry, Agent Mulder, but you can't go down there without a steelsuit in good condition."
Mulder and Scully stared at each other. They both knew what this meant... Scully would have to go down and find the object by herself.
Scully seemed to read his thoughts. "I'll be fine, Mulder," she assured him. "I won't get hurt."
"Scully, I...I can't let you go down there by yourself. You could run into the..."
"I'll be fine," she repeated. "Really."
"Agent Mulder, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll put you on the other end of the radio communications system. There's a radio between the diver and the people on the surface. Agent Scully, come with me, I'll get you suited up..."
Mulder watched Scully follow Kat below deck. He didn't know whether to be relieved or even more anxious. He could only hope that Scully would be alright without him there...
Scully stepped out of the first dressing room. The wetsuit felt tight and undersized about her body, although she had been told this was the smallest size the suits cam in. She met Mulder and Kat ouside, where they had the rest of her diving outfit.
"Hey, looking good," Mulder winked at her. Scully sighed. She never had enjoyed walking around in swimwear. Of course, she had never had to until now. Kat held up her final layer of clothing.
"What *is* that thing?"
"It's your steelsuit. I'll help you put it on."
Scully stared at the suit. It looked like a modern version of a suit of armor. The suit was made entirely of closely-linked chains of stainless stell. It looked *extremely* uncomfortable.
"This will protect you from any marine predators, particularly sharks. This stuff is stainless steel; almost nothing can bite through it."
Kat helped Scully fit the steelsuit around her body. It fit rather snugly, and Scully felt like she had just gained ten pounds. Then she fit the steel gloves on her hands and buckled a large utility belt around her waist.
"I'm going to explain the items on the belt to you," Kat said. "This large scabbard on your left holds your hunting knife. The blade is six inches long. If anything attacks you , use this to defend yourself. And this thing on the back is your shock-stick," she showed Scully what looked like a policeman's club.
"This little switch right here indicates how much electricity you're using. Your highest level is 5000 volts. Switch this on and hit something with it, and the creature you strike will instantly get a shock of electricity. This you also use to defend yourself.
The hook on the front attaches you to the lifeline, which I'll explain later. There's also hooks on the back to attach the air tanks. The rest of the belt is lined with ballast weights. If you're surfacing in a hurry, you unhook some of these ballast weights and you'll rise faster."
Scully felt herself gain another 20 pounds as two large air tanks were positioned on her back. Finally, Kat strapped a large snorkel mask to her head and connected the breathing tube to the air tanks. She felt a rush of pure oxygen enter her lungs as she breathed in.
"Can you breathe alright?"
"Yeah," Scully said through the mouthpiece.
"There's a radio built into the mouthpiece. The transmission should be pretty clear all the way down.
Mulder looked her up and down, observing the cumbersome air tanks and strange-looking mask. "I guess this give a whole new meaning to the phrase 'buns of steel'..."
Scully finished putting on a pair of large, rubber flippers and tramped awkwardly out on deck, Mulder and Kat right behind her. Jake, Antonio, Rachel, Darthman and a few of the ships crew were up on deck, preparing for Scully's solo descent.
"Here," Darthman handed Mulder a radio headset. "Your cell phone for the day."
Scully was presented with a powerful, underwater flashlight to use when she reached the bottom. At the edge of the ship was a large winch loaded down with thick wire and a crank. She attached the end of the wire to her belt with a grappling hook.
"This is your lifeline," Kat explained. "If anything should happen to you, call and we'll pull you back up. However, there's only enough wire to last about 3/4s of the way down. When the lifeline runs out, just detach it and sink the rest of the way down."
"Wait a minute," Mulder held up his hands. "What's with this stuff? Knives, electric sticks, lifelines? I thought nothing was going to happen down there! I thought..."
"They're just precautions, Mulder," Scully interrupted. "Nothing's going to happen to me." She walked to the edge of the ship.
"Can you hear me?" Mulder spoke into the headset.
"I hear you fine."
Scully dropped off the ship and into the indigo water with a loud splash.
The shock of the cold liquid against her skin made her start, even through the layers of steel and rubber. Bubbles swirled around her head as the surface closed over her, sealing her in salty liquid. She suspended herself there for a minute, her body trying to decide whether to obey gravity or water density. Finally, though, she began to sink. She glanced above her and watched Mulder's face blur and then disappear behind the inky darkness. She was alone.
Mulder watched the winch unravel Scully's lifeline as she descended into the depths. Mulder swallowed hard. "Scully, can you read me?" he said into the headset.
"Yeah, I'm doing fine. Kind of hard to see; it's very dark."
Scully kicked towards the unseen ocean floor. She shined her flashlight down, but it only illuminated about five feet below her. The water was cold and empty; there were no fish in sight. Her breathing echoed into her chest and out into the air ranks, creating what seemed like a deafening sound. Her heart was pounding furiously.
'What are you so worried about? There's nothing to be afraid of,' she told herself. And it was true, there was nothing but water all around her.
She continued to descend, kicking sometimes, but mostly just letting the ballast weights drag her down. Mulder talked to her via the radio and helped unwind the lifeline. She had used up ten minutes of her 30-minute air time and was still going at a steady pace.
"No, but I feel like the water's gotten a bit warmer. I still can't see the bottom."
"Keep going, you're about halfway down."
Scully started. Her air tanks clunked against her steelsuit unsteadily. She glanced to the left, right, top and bottom. She didn't see anything.
"Scully, what is it?"
"Something just brushed against me."
Mulder became worried. "What is it?"
"I don't see anything. I think it was just a piece of dead kelp, or..."
She felt the thing again, only harder this time. Now she became worried. She had heard that sharks usually bumped, or tested their victims right before they attacked. She turned around fast, and caught a glimpse of an enormous tail flipping by in a rush of bubbles.
"Mulder...I'm not alone."
Mulder gripped the boat rail and stared down into the calm blue water. The lifeline continued to be let out as his partner sank down. "Scully, can you see it? What's happening?!"
"Mulder, I-" she stopped. Something very *large* was coming towards her from below. She couldn't quite make out the thing, but if it *was* a shark, it was extremely big and strangely shaped. She shined her flashlight down.
"I see it!"
The thing was...*humongous*! The head was shaped like a dragon's or a crocodile's, with webbed spikes and huge ears extending from its face. The body was long and serpentine, with more webbed spikes and a shark's fin down its back. Black and blue scales sparkled in the flashlight's eerie glow. It swam by pushing forward with its powerful tail and front claws.
Those cold, reptilian eyes fixated on her; it's defenseless prey. The jaws separated, revealing teeth that she had seen only once before; on the computer at H.R.I. Bubbles swirled upwards towards the surface and her. It was hunting her.
"Mulder, I-*KHHHHT*-mething coming, it's-*KRXXXXXYT*-kudda! Tracking sys-*KKKHT*-going to-*KZZZZZZT*-use knife."
"Scully! Scully, can you read me?" Mulder cried, listening hard into the headset. "You're breaking up! What's going on?!"
The lifeline continued to unravel. "Be ready to pull her up the minute I tell you!" Mulder shouted to Jake, Antonio and Darthman, motioning to the winch and crank. "Scully, do you read me?"
Scully was thrown backwards as the Malikudda charged at her, missing her by mere inches. It stopped just above her and snarled with anger, then started down again. Scully unsheathed the hunting knife and stood ready. Her heart pounded furiously in her chest. She couldn't believe what she was seeing...but she couldn't think about it now. Whatever this thing was, it meant to kill her.
The Malikudda charged again. It opened its jaws wide and snapped them closed just as Scully dodged. Now the monster's head was below her; dark, unblinking eyes staring up at her hungrily. She brought the hunting knife down between the monster's eyes with a mighty thrust.
The blade broke clean in two. The monster's scales were so tough that even her huge knife couldn't pierce them. Scully grew more frantic at this realization. She tossed the hunting knife aside and reached for her shock-stick in the back, but it was caught in the air tank tube.
"Mulder, I need-*KKKHHHT*-rying to ge-*KHHHHHHT*-need help!"
Mulder tried to listen, but static kept interfering with Scully's words. Something was attacking her down there, but he had no way of knowing what.
The monster prepared to charge at Scully one more time. She was completely paralyzed with fear; she knew only that this undersea predator was going to eat her alive and there was no way she could escape.
"Scully, answer me!"
It was ten feet away.
She forced herself to think, to awake herself from her trance. She had to get out of here; she had to fight back! She kicked to one side to dodge again, still struggling to free the shock-stick.
She didn't move fast enough.
The Malikudda was upon her in a flash. The enormous teeth and watchful eyes filled her vision from within the mask entirely. The jaws opened wide... and closed over her left leg.
The unbelievably painful shock traveled from the nerves in her leg to her brain. She felt the steel scrape against her leg, the scratching of flesh, the tearing of tendons and the cracking of bone as muscles, ligaments, bone and tissue were twisted and squeezed against their will within the monster's teeth. Scully screamed in agonized pain and terror.
Mulder heard the quick snap, like old bamboo cracking, and Scully's scream. He heard the scuffling and roaring from the fight, muffled beneath the surface of the water. His expression had changed from worry to fear to downright panic. "Scully, talk to me! Please!!"
"Mulder! It's-*KKHHHHT*-broken, trapped-*KHT*-can't ge-*KXXXXXXXYT*-gonna eat-*KKKRTT*-I nee-*KKKKKKKXT*-pull m-*KYYT*-up, now!-*KRRRRRRRKT*-up! No! Mul-*KRT*-help me!!!"
The winch suddenly began to unwind at a record pace; something was pulling Scully down. the wire made a squealing sound as it emptied into the water. Mulder watched it go for two seconds, his face a mask of total fear as he realized what was happening...
"Scully, no!!" he roared into the headset. He leaped at the crank just as the winch ran out of wire. The winch made a groaning noise as something large continued to pull on the other end. He snatched the crank and turned it with all his might, crying out at his inability to rewind the wire. "Help me!"
The Malikudda dived, taking Scully along with it. Her leg was still trapped within the jaws of the sea monster; it was attempting to drown her. She stared at the thing's gargantuan head with absolute terror and kicked her leg. The jaws remained locked; she couldn't escape. She kept trying to free the shock-stick from the air tank tube and talk to Mulder, but the transmission was going bad and she heard only static.
She had to escape. Scully pounded with her fists on the creature's snout wildly. It didn't even blink at her. It just continued to dive even deeper, pulling Scully further away from the surface and Mulder and any hope of surviving.
But then, the wire that attached her to the boat suddenly went taunt, causing her to snap backwards at a crazy angle and lose all balance. The Malikudda stopped as it realized it's prey was still attached to something above. It lashed about furiously in the water, trying to drag Scully even deeper. She could feel the horrible pain in her leg that was trapped inside the monster's mouth.
On deck, Mulder, Jake, Antonio and Darthman were pulling on the crank with all their strength. They had only rewound the wire two times. Mulder was utterly shocked at the strength this thing had. Sweat trickled down his forehead and back and the muscles in his arm strained from the work.
"Scully, answer me!" he shouted again. Nothing but static. The wire strained against the two forces. Mulder and the Malikudda were in a tug-o-war, and Scully was the rope. But Mulder wasn't about to let this monster have her...
All four were thrown to the deck on their backs in a unanimous 'thud'. The crank and winch made an agonizing scream as the wire rewound itself at a rapid pace, the crank spinning backwards wildly, as if someone had let go of the other end. Mulder rightened himself as the lifeline came spinning up to the surface...
The end of the wire flew up out of the water and landed on the deck next to Mulder. The other half of the wire, the grappling hook and Scully were no longer attached to it. Mulder stared at the bitten-off wire, his heart pounding with ultimate fear and realization...
"Scully!!" he screamed into the headset. "Scully, answer me!! Answer me!!!"
There was static. Then Scully screamed in pain and terror again. There was a sickening sound of crunching and tearing. And then there was silence. No static, no sound. A bead of sweat trickled down Mulder's forehead. The radio was dead.
The wire that had been pulled taunt went slack. Scully cried out and grasped desperately for the lifeline, but it was quickly pulled up to the surface by something else. The monster continued to dive.
"Mulder, help me!"
But there was no sound; the radio had gone dead. Her leg, which had been stuck between two teeth, had begun to slip. In response, the monster had bit down on it again, causing even more bone to crack. She could only hope that the steel chains had held up and that her leg had not been impaled on one of those railroad spikes.
She looked back up as the wire disappeared from view. Her one chance of escape was gone.
But she wasn't about to let this thing eat her, not for a million years. She tugged at the handle of the shock-stick...and yanked it free! The Malikudda took no notice of her actions; it just continued to dive. Scully switched the stick to 500 volts and brought it down on her attacker's head.
The thing didn't even so much as blink.
She switched it to 1000 volts and tried again, striking it twice across the face with two loud K-THWUMPS. This time, the creature blinked and growled in annoyance. She *had* to get it to let go of her.
2000 volts. K-THWUMP. She could feel electricity coursing through the weapon, and the monster inwardly flinching, as if being scraped by a thorn. The pressure was increasing greatly; she could feel her limbs getting weaker and weaker. How much air time did she have left? Ten minutes? Five minutes? Whatever it was, it wasn't much, and Mulder couldn't help her now.
But that certainly wasn't going to stop him from trying. He tore the headset from his face in panic and leaned over the edge of the rail.
The water remained calm and quiet. Mulder stared desperately at the surface and gazed into his own frightened reflection. It was all his fault. He shouldn't have let Scully go down there alone. He shouldn't have even brought her here in the first place, shouldn't have dragged her on this mission to prove the Malikudda was real. He felt downright pathetic, like he had tried to catch a legend monster fish...and used Scully as bait.
Jake stood up and looked at Mulder staring over the boat rail at the empty water. "Hey, so she's dead, man. Get over it."
"Shut up!" Mulder whirled around and landed his fist straight in Jake's left eye. The surfer was thrown head-over-heels onto the deck with a black eye. "Just shut up!!"
Antonio came to his friend's aid, who was busy protecting his swollen eye and thinking up as many cuss words as there were in his vocabulary and hurling them at Mulder. "Hey, we warned you!" Antonio sneered. "We told you if she went down there she ain't comin' back up. It's not our fault she got gulped down by that-"
"I said *SHUT UP*!!!" Mulder, in a terrible fury, grabbed Antonio by the collar and threw him to the deck. Both teens struck up a chorus of insults and cuss words at the agent.
"We've lost all contact with her," Kat announced, coming up on deck. "What happened?"
"Agent Mulder...I'm sorry..." Rachel said with a grieved look on her face. "I know how you feel..."
"No!" Mulder shouted in anguish, his eyes brimming with tears. "I'm gonna find her, she's not dead!!" he ripped off his coat, kicked away his shoes and started for the boat rail.
"Agent Mulder, no!!" Kat, Rachel and Darthman seized Mulder by the arms and dragged him back. "There's nothing you can do. Even if she did escape, she's over 75 feet down and she only had eight minutes left. You can't save her."
Mulder unwillingly allowed himself to be dragged away from the rail. He didn't care about what the others said; about the facts. He knew only that somewhere down there, Scully could be dying within the gnashing jaws of a hungry monster and crying for help he could not give.
The Malikudda had become very frustrated. The small creature it had caught was fighting back with a vengeance. It had eaten such creatures before; small, weak, easy to kill and rather appetizing. But this one had dodged its first charges, even attempted to wound it with something. It had become even more confused when it couldn't bite through the creature's tough skin and when it had to slice through something holding its prey to the surface.
The creature had, of course, reacted wildly when it seized its leg, that was typical. The Malikudda was hoping to drown this thing quickly, it didn't want it squirming around inside later. But even after dragging it down way past its limit it hadn't quit thrashing. And now it was counterattacking, striking the Malikudda over the head multiple times with a stick that stung harshly.
Scully was busy living up to the monster's angry reputation of her. She had switched the shock-stick to 4000 volts and was pounding desperately on the thing's snout. The Malikudda growled, flinched and twitched with pain, but it still didn't let go. Scully was in a reckless frenzy. She switched the stick to 5000 volts, its highest level of power, and snapped it across her attacker's eyes.
The monster had had quite enough; this was too much. The jaws separated and parted their full length to let loose a roar...and released Scully's broken leg. If it couldn't charge her, couldn't injure her and couldn't drown her, it was going to swallow her whole.
Scully was unable to escape the sudden flow of water rushing into the monster's gaping mouth, and she was swept inside the jaws. She would have been instantly devoured if she hadn't quickly grabbed onto the monster's snout. She was filled with a petrifying, overwhelming sense of horror and panic as she stared at hundreds of eight-inch, serrated teeth and a black hole for a throat that led to what could be her final resting place. The ghastly reek of digesting flesh made her nauseated. The monster, once more in possession of its prey, began to close its jaws over her again.
She had to think fast, and she had to act fast.
She did both.
Scully seized the shock-stick in her hand and shoved it down the monster's gullet with a quick thrust. Then she dived backwards and outwards, giving the Malikudda a sharp kick in the upper jaw with her fin. She swam clear of the giant mouth as it snapped shut. She was free!
Scully wasted no time. She swam insanely for the surface, using both arms and kicking her one good leg. She unhooked the ballast weights one by one instantly, regardless of the fact that the sudden pressure change could rupture her lungs. She knew only that the surface was above her and that she needed to reach it!
The Malikudda choked back on the shock-stick for a minute, but finally swallowed it. It glanced up at its escaping meal and roared with enraged fury. It started up after her, and this time, it wasn't going to waste time trying to drown her first. Scully knew that she would be unable to outswim that enormous creature, especially with a broken leg, but she didn't care. She had to escape, that was all there was to it!
And suddenly, she felt her breath stop in her throat. She sucked at the mouthpiece, but her lungs were empty. She had run out of air! She tore the mouthpiece from her lips and ripped off the air tanks, knowing they would only weigh her down now.
Below her, the Malikudda was growing ever closer. The enormous tail and front claws were easily overtaking Scully's weak limbs. Why hadn't it been shocked yet? Scully was too terrified to look behind her and notice the monster was only five feet away, ready to devour her in one bite. She still couldn't see the surface, and she felt like her lungs would burst any minute.
And suddenly, the monster stopped. It gagged, choked and thrashed wildly in the water at some unseen enemy. It roared at Scully once more and began to sink back downward slowly, still thrashing. The shock-stick was zapping the monster from inside itself, and it howled in pain and anger as it tried to regurgitate the weapon. Scully continued to surface.
Mulder had his head against the boat rail; his limbs had all gone limp. It had been over 30 minutes since Scully had dived down, and over 20 since she had been attacked and broken off from all radio communication. Mulder's eyes were moist and blurry. He felt a terrible pain in his chest, as if his heart had just cracked in two.
They were going to leave without her. Kat had convinced Mulder that Scully had been under too long for her to have survived, there was nothing they could do, they would have to go back to shore for more extensive equipment to search for the object and Scully's body.
The rain had started again. The dark clouds massed and swirled and dripped their contents down onto the boat. The rain slapped, splattered and splashed against the wooden deck, breaking the eerie silence. Mulder was alone with his thoughts and the rain. Unwilling to believe that Scully was dead, unable to accept that the dream he had had last night had become reality; that what should have been his body being crushed and mutilated and shredded had become Scully's fate.
A single bubble broke the surface of the still water.
Mulder ignored the rain drenching him and the rumble under his feet from the ship's engine starting. He couldn't think, couldn't react, all he could do was stare down into that vast, empty expanse of water and-
Another bubble. Then another.
He watched the water carefully. More and more bubbles appeared. Something was rapidly approaching the surface. His body tensed with inexplicable fear; perhaps that monster was coming back for a second helping. He gripped the boat rail tightly and narrowed his eyes. It was coming closer...
Scully's head burst through the water in a spray of foam. She spat and choked and sucked in air eagerly, all while clawing desperately for the boat's edge. Her vision was blurred by salty sea water and her entire body was numb, but she knew only that she could breathe again, and she filled her lungs with precious oxygen.
Mulder stared at the splashing figure for a moment. His entire mind had gone blank; he felt like he was watching a flying fish jump out of the water. Then his senses returned to him.
Scully grabbed at the rope that was thrown over the rail to her. She heard Mulder calling her name, and she swam desperately towards his voice.
Kat rounded the corner of the ship and saw Mulder leaning over the side. "Agent Mulder, we're casting off now. I'm terribly sorry about Agent Scully, but there was nothing you could do..."
Mulder turned to face her...holding Scully in his arms.
"Oh my g...Agent Scully!!"
Mulder lay Scully down on the deck. She was shivering horribly, almost convulsing, from shock and cold and relief. She gazed up at Mulder through weak, salt-filled eyes that could barely stay open, and her hair hung in loose pieces all across her face. Mulder looked back down at her, his eyes filled with wonder. For a moment, he didn't know what to say. So he said the first thing that came to his mind:
Scully raised a fist wearily. "Mulder, *never* provoke anyone wearing a steel glove!!"
Kat stared at the two for a moment, then started shouting orders to no one in particular. "Stop the engines! We found Agent Scully. We need medical assistance over here. Stop the boat and get over here, now!"
People began to rush out from their stations on the boat; Jake, Antonio, Darthman and Rachel first of all. Mulder drew in Scully, who was trying to quit convulsing, and cradled her head in his arms. Now they were *both* trying to recover from shock.
"Scully, I...what happened down there? I heard you scream and this crunching and roaring, then the lifeline broke and the radio went dead...I thought you were...Scully, can you talk? What happened?"
Scully gasped and coughed again. "I...it attacked me...bit my leg, I think it's broken...it was dragging me down...the wire snapped, and I couldn't escape...I fought back with the shock-stick...almost got...it broke my knife, swallowed my shock-stick...I almost got..." she broke into more shivering and coughing.
"It's okay, Scully," Mulder held her close. "It's gone now."
Antonio stared down at her, eyes wide with surprise. "Hey, how come you're still alive?"
Mulder and Scully looked at Antonio with murder in their eyes. Rachel gave Antonio an angry glare and dragged him away.
"Can you stand?" Mulder asked Scully. She tried, but she toppled down again, crying out with pain.
"My leg hurts..."
"Get that steelsuit off her," Kat ordered. Mulder and Darthman tore the chain-link suit from Scully's body, revealing the original black wetsuit beneath it. Kat rolled up the suit on the left leg, exposing bare skin.
Mulder felt along her leg until he reached a point where a large lump appeared and her leg was twisted. Scully winced in pain. "It's broken, Scully. Probably in more than one place. You twisted it so badly, I think you tore a ligament or something, too. What happened down there?"
Scully stared at the lump on her leg indicating the bone that had been snapped and twisted out of place. She winced again. "It was coming at me, and I dodged, but I don't think I moved quick enough. It bit down on my leg hard and I heard it snap.
"You're not bleeding. You weren't impaled."
"I think it got stuck in the gap between two teeth. It *hurts*. It was pulling me down, I couldn't get free...Mulder, I was so terrified, I thought I'd never see you again..."
"Can you describe it?" Mulder asked. "Did you see it? Do you know what it looks like?"
"It was absolutely enormous; it had a long body and head like a lizard. There were spikes, scales, I think, front and back claws. The head was almost eight feet long, the teeth were huge, almost eight inches long..." Scully stopped, finally realizing exactly what she was saying.
Mulder smiled. "You still don't believe in sea monsters?"
"Oh, shut up. I'm fine, really..."
"Scully, you were nearly eaten alive! You're still in shock. You need to get to a hospital..."
"I'm cold, and it's raining. I want to go home..."
Mulder landed on the deck next to Scully as the ship rocked back and forth from impact. There was a loud groaning and creaking. The waves slapped up angrily against the hull.
"What was that?!"
The ship shook again. Something was striking the vessel from below... something strong enough to shake the entire research ship. The rain poured down harder. A deep rumble sounded from the sea below.
The roar came again. And then, through the crashing waves appeared a single shark's fin...
"Mulder...that's what attacked me..." she began to shiver again. "It's after me!"
A spray of salt water shot up as the shark's fin cut through the waves towards the boat. It disappeared just as it reached the ship...
The craft lurched over again.
"I thought it had been electrocuted. It swallowed my shock-stick..."
"It must have spit it back out."
People were scrambling all over the ship, grabbing the boat rail and each other for support. Shouts from the people and the creaking and groaning from the boat almost over powered the sound of the rain. Mulder held onto the rail and Scully held on to Mulder as the ship vibrated again.
"We've sprung a leak!" Kat cried, repeating what she had heard below deck. "The hull is cracked!"
Scully was suddenly filled with an overpoweringly paralyzing sense of terror. She felt like she was responsible for all this; that the monster was seeking revenge for her escape. That even after she had fought it off single-handedly, it still wanted to get a piece of her, if not all of her...
Almost 100 feet below the surface, a small, black rod sank to the ocean floor and struck a circular, metallic object lying in the sand...
"Mulder, it's after me!" Scully cried in anguish. Mulder pulled her away from the rail lest they should fall overboard, and tried to calm her.
"It's okay, Scully, we'll get out of this somehow. We're still on the boat, I won't let that thing get you again..."
The boat rumbled again.
Then, for a moment, it was deathly still. No roaring, no splashing and no shouting. Even the rain seemed to be muted by the silence. Then the clouds pouring their contents above began to swirl in a definite circular pattern...
The waves slapping against the ship grew louder, creating a rhythmic thumping sound. The waves whirled in a circle, slowly at first, then beginning to pick up speed. The rain followed the cloud's motion in an enormous ring, seeming to form a tornado of water.
People all over the ship were screaming in terror. Mulder was not one of them. He was still staring at the water. In the very center of the forming whirlpool, the waves seemed to be *glowing*. The bright blue light stretched out, further and further, expanding until it went to the ship. The entire craft was illuminated from beneath in the ocean's eerie glow, casting shadows where none could have existed at that time of day. Mulder clutched Scully tightly, who had her eyes squeezed shut.
The ship creaked and groaned, then slooooowly tilted to one side. A spray of foam and salt water shot up from one side and drenched the deck. The whirlpool continued to spin....and 'The Stingray' was pulled into its current. The rain sprayed not downwards, but instead sideways in all directions, attacking the people aboard the ship like millions of silver bullets.
An incredible roar sounded from within the whirlpool. Mulder forced his eyes open against the pummeling rain to look. The Malikudda was caught within the whirlpool's swirling waves, howling and paddling uselessly against the current. Salt and water shot up and out from around its scales, plowing claws and snapping teeth. All Mulder could do was stare at it and wonder....wonder how Scully could ever have managed to escape that thing in one piece.
The whirlpool acted like a gigantic magnet, pulling everything within range towards its deadly core. The vessel was starting to move by itself, the anchor useless against the pressure of the churning water. But it was the sea monster that was in the most trouble. It was caught right in the middle, and despite its incredible strength, was easily getting sucked down. Mulder could feel an unbelievably powerful force pulling from within, a monster swallowing a monster, and one that couldn't be stopped by any force on earth.
The clouds and rain rumbled in time with the roaring of the whirlpool and its captive. Walls of water collided with the ship one after another after another until no one could remain standing.
Mulder got one last glimpse of the Malikudda before it was sucked, howling and clawing, down into the monstrous whirlpool. The scaly tail thrashed about and then disappeared as the monster returned to whatever lost realm it had come from. The Malikudda was gone.
The rain tornado collided with the boat forcefully, enlarging whatever leaks the monster had caused earlier. The whirlpool weakened, collapsed, its currents thinning and dispersing. More spray and salt flew in all directions. The research vessel was tossed about in the waves like a toy boat. Mulder fell to the deck with a 'thud', slammed against a window, collided with two other people and was flung against the winch, but still managed to stay conscious. Somewhere in the middle of the collisions and thuds, Scully was torn from his grasp. He didn't know where she was now.
The glow of the water had lessened and finally died. The roaring of the whirlpool was reduced to a low whine and the slapping of the waves. Finally, even the strong current slowed, and the waves shrank to ripples. The ship had stopped its spinning and groaning.
And ultimately, all movement stopped. The rain and clouds were the only things shifting on the ocean. The water was calm once more. Mulder lay sprawled flat across the deck, his entire body aching with bruises and cuts. He watched people begin to pick themselves up from various parts of the ship through half-open eyes. He forced himself to his feet despite his trembling knees and looked around dazedly.
Scully was flat on her back, her face white with shock and pain, her left leg twisted out of place even more. She was unconscious. Shouts and orders from the recovering crew reverberated within the sound of the pouring rain. Mulder limped over to her and held her in his arms, promising himself never to let go of her again...
Zuma beach, California
The waves broke against the distant shore one after the other, composing a rumbling and booming like a muted drum and dampening the sand to dark brown. The stretch of brown sand was wider because of the low tide. The white sand below and the cloudless blue sky above formed a border for the ocean; stripes of light blue, blue and then white lined the horizon.
Scully watched the rumbling waves with a sigh, the ocean wind rustling through her red hair. She wished for all the world that she could be out there by the beach right now, relaxing in the sun, instead of having to catch a flight all the way back to wet-and-gloomy D.C. and even worse, she was now going around on crutches.
Scully may have been a doctor, but that didn't mean she enjoyed them, either. As it turned out, she had broken her leg in three places, as well as having torn a ligament. She had been in the hospital for the past four days, and now that she was finally out, she had to keep her leg in a cast for a week. She positively *hated* walking around as what Mulder called "a flamingo that lost one shoe".
Scully turned around as she heard Mulder calling to her. He stood by a vending machine next to the public bathrooms, a slightly-crumpled dollar bill in his hand.
"Scully, it won't work," he whined, pounding on the soda machine in front of him. He inserted the dollar bill again, only to have it rejected back into his hand. He tried again. Same response. "You don't think there's another bomb in here, do you?"
Scully sighed and rolled her eyes. Lifting her bandaged leg off the ground, she limped over to Mulder and the soda machine, her shoulders supported by two large crutches. Mulder inserted the dollar bill again to demonstrate the machine's imperfection.
Scully took the dollar bill, flipped it so that it was face up and stuck it into the machine slot. Then she punched on a Pepsi, and grabbed up the can when it fell to the bottom of the machine. Mulder watched her with a scowl as she began to guzzle the soda, smirking.
"Thanks," Mulder growled sarcastically.
The two walked back to the parking lot of the beach. Their rental car was parked by the sidewalk, as was Jake and Antonio's rusty pickup and Darthman's lifeguard truck. The lifeguard was leaning against the hood when the two agents reached their car.
"Don't even bother going down to the dock. The second research ship searched for the past three hours; they didn't find a thing." Darthman sighed.
"Nothing?" Scully asked, eyebrows raised.
"Nothing. No monster, but no little micro-atom-smasher-thingy either. They used tracking systems, scanners, a gang of half a dozen divers, the whole bit. They couldn't find a thing. And there haven't been any sightings or attacks since last Sunday when Agent Scully fought it off. I think whatever happened at that strange whirlpool solved all of our problems. I think that Malikudda is gone for good."
Rachel had been sitting in Jake and Antonio's truck, waiting for the two surfers to return from the food stand on the beach with a semi-healthy lunch. She got out as Mulder and Scully approached and faced them.
"Agent Mulder and Agent Scully...I wanted to thank you guys for everything that you did. You...basically saved our lives."
"But if it weren't for us, your friend would still be..."
"No, not just me. Everyone who lives in Malibu, everyone who wants to enjoy the beach without fear. And especially you, Agent Scully. You risked your life and you even got injured to stop that thing."
Scully glanced down at her cast and crutches. "Thank you, but I was only doing my job."
"No, really, you caught the guy who caused all this and kidnaped Margaret. He's going to be in prison for life. And you even managed to get rid of the Malikudda. I think that deserves quite a bit of thanks," Rachel smiled. Then she turned and started to run down the beach as the familiar sounds of Jake and Antonio's arguing drifted in.
Scully looked at Mulder. "That's the first time anyone's ever thanked us for our efforts. Does this mean that we've finally solved a case for good?"
"Somehow," Mulder stared out at the vast, sapphire ocean, "I have a feeling that we haven't..."
Scully sighed. "Come on, you wimp, we've got a flight to catch."
Mulder got into the driver's seat of the sand-splattered rental car while Scully limped into the passenger seat, throwing the crutches in the back as soon as she sat down. The car started up, turned out of the parking lot and drove down the highway leading to the airport.
For a very long time, neither of the two agents spoke. Scully was staring out the window at the passing ocean thoughtfully, its silver-blue hues churning into white foam as constant waves pounded against the sandy shore. It all seemed so quiet, so stunning...so empty...
Scully's thoughts were interrupted by Mulder's sudden breaking into fits of snickering. She turned to face him. He was giggling uncontrollably and shaking his head.
"What's so funny?"
"Oh, I was just thinking...you and your dog Queequeg are so much alike. You're both small, you both have red hair and big eyes, and you both got chomped on by aquatic monsters..."
Mulder ducked a blow from Scully's fist. "My leg may be broken, but my arm is in perfect condition!!"
"Hey, okay, I'm sorry," Mulder smiled, holding up his hand in defeat.
The silence returned. Both agents appeared to be deep in thought as the rental car cruised down the highway running parallel to the sea. Mulder looked over at Scully gazing out the window and sighed. He tried to imagine what it would be like if Scully wasn't there, if she hadn't survived...and it sent a shiver down his spine. He had to swallow before speaking.
"What?" she turned to face him.
"I...just wanted to know that I'm glad you're alright. I don't know what I would do if you weren't...I mean I know that it's partially my fault that you...Scully, I would go *nuts* if you ever got...I mean...never mind."
Scully stared at her partner thoughtfully, wishing she could read his mind like that Gibson Praise kid and know exactly what he wanted to say. He was mumbling excuses to himself and tripping over his words. Was it her fault that he was in so much confusion? Ever since they had seemed to finally admit that they did...now it had only seemed to make things worse. But was she finally admitting that she loved him...or had she done that long ago? Scully didn't understand why he didn't tell her straight out what he wanted to say...She sighed. No, she wouldn't press it. It would never work out. If they did, it would never be the same again.
The rental car turned from the highway onto the road through the hills, leaving the vast expanse of ocean behind.
FBI Headquarters, Washington D.C.
Scully arrived sometime after Mulder. She came into Skinner's office limping unhappily, weighed down by the heavy cast on her leg. She collapsed into the second chair, leaned the crutches against the wall and handed a manila folder to Skinner, who was sitting at the desk across from them.
The warm afternoon sunlight flooded through the window behind Skinner and gave the room what would have been a pleasant feeling...but the warmth was overwhelmed by a more repulsive heat. The familiar acrid odor of cigarette smoke clung to the furnished scent of the Assistant Director's office. The odor clogged the breath in Scully's chest, reminding her of her terrible scare in the Pacific when her air tanks ran out. The Cigarette-smoking Man was leaning against a file cabinet like a well-trained bloodhound or Doberman, guarding the file cabinet almost ironically. There was nothing neither Scully nor Mulder nor Skinner would have liked better than to shove all that filthy smoke back down his throat and choke him. The Cigarette-smoking Man had gotten them into more situations, conspiracies, close escapes and near-death experiences than they really cared to remember. And yet he was always there, blowing on another light, watching them without saying a word.
But they weren't going to question his presence. They hadn't for the past five years, anyhow. Skinner placed the manila folder by him on the desk, giving the agents the obvious sign that he would talk to them first and go over the details later.
"Agent Mulder, for now, I'd like to hear your version of the facts first. Did you discover the origin of the attacks and disappearances?"
Mulder shifted around in his chair before answering. "Yes, sir. We found that an animal of some sort is behind the attacks, but ultimately, a human is responsible for it. Dr. Nicholas Norheiff was a scientist and researcher at Hughes Research Institute until he was fired. And we thing that afterwards, he continued on with his experiments privately and either directly or indirectly released or provoked an animal whose main diet consisted of humans..."
"What sort of animal, Agent Mulder?" Skinner asked.
Mulder swallowed. "I believe it to be a large, carnivorous creature, a sea serpent or such other related species, who's origin is not of this time or dimension."
Skinner was not surprised. These were the only kind of explanations he received from Mulder: paranormal, extra-terrestrial, psychological or just downright weird. Cancer Man said nothing.
And then there was Scully. Skinner could always count on a sound, scientific explanation from her regarding a case...although far too often he kept hearing the word "inconclusive".
He looked her up and down. she was very tired, and clearly aggravated by the cast on her left leg. Another familiar sight. It seemed like every time those two agents came in, they had broken legs, or broken arms, or broken fingers, or cuts or bruises or scratches or gunshot wounds or implants in their necks, or one came in claiming the other was dead or missing or abducted or all three. It was all Skinner could do from groaning aloud.
"Agent Scully, I understand that you were involved in some sort of diving trial that had to do with the investigation, in which case you were attacked and injured by something. Can you tell me what it was?"
Scully stared down at the cast thoughtfully. "I believe that it was a previously unidentified large marine predator, possibly a shark or barracuda. It disappeared before we had a chance to identify it."
Mulder groaned under his breath. "You were attacked?" Skinner pressed.
"Yes, sir. It bit me on my leg and dragged me down about 50 feet or so."
"A shark or barracuda dragged you down 50 feet when you had 20-pound air tanks, a lifeline and a suit of steel, and were armed with a knife and electric weapon?"
Now it was Scully's turn to swallow. "Yes, sir."
Skinner straightened the papers on his desk for no apparent reason. "May I ask why *you* were told to attempt this diving expedition when there were more professional and experienced people present?"
"I don't know, sir. I assumed that the FBI was required to do this as part of our investigation."
Skinner sighed. It was clear that he was either very agitated or very confused. He straightened another stack of papers that were already neat. "Thank you, Agent Scully. I'll go over your full report later. You're dismissed."
Mulder got up and helped Scully to her feet. She then picked up the crutches and limped out the door after her partner. Skinner watched them go, as did Cancer Man. Skinner glowered at him and pointed an accusing thumb towards the door. Skinner had long since banned Cancer Man from his office, but he kept showing up anyhow. The man had too much help...too many hit mans, assassins, and officials in higher levels of power that could can Skinner instantly than he dared to cope with. But despite Cancer Man's repeated visits, Skinner refused to speak to him. Cancer Man took his hint and exited, leaving behind the faint, repugnant odor of burning nicotine...
"You were afraid to tell him the truth, weren't you?" Mulder glared accusingly at Scully. "Large, unidentified marine predator? What, are you scared that saying a sea monster attacked you will make you some sort of insane freak?"
Scully glared back at Mulder almost twice as disapprovingly. "To tell you the truth, Mulder, I don't even know *what* happened down there. The water was extremely dark and I lost my flashlight. The urgency of the moment plus the shock of the attack could have caused me to exaggerate the actual dimensions of the creature..."
"Scully," Mulder's aggravated look turned into one of sorrow. "Why can't you just let yourself believe, just once? Why, even after you were nearly devoured, can't you just accept that this may be something that science can't explain?"
"Because," Scully sighed, "it's the only thing that keeps us together. My hardcore scientific views are the only reason they allow me to work with you. They're after us, Mulder. They know that we know what they're planning, and they're desperate now. And if I suddenly started believing that every case we came across was part of a cover-up or conspiracy, they'd find some way to wipe us both out. Mulder, sometimes I *do* want to believe...but I feel like I can't."
Mulder's pace slowed. He let this thought sink in...no matter how hard they tried, things would never be the same again. Scully limped ahead into the waiting elevator, and Mulder followed her.
A man watched them from a corner in the hallway. His jet-black hair hung in wavy curls in front of his attentive blue eyes. He scratched his goatee and straightened his tie, then started back down the hall, his shoes making no sound on the floor. His eyes drifted to Skinner's office as he passed by and caught a glimpse of the Assistant Director thumbing through the report.
Time was running out. The date was set, and it was drawing ever so closer...to close for comfort. He needed to contact them, somehow, warn them. Obsidian knew his position, and the position of the agents...he needed to think of something...
Zuma beach, Malibu
The indigo waves did not reflect the moonlight, but seemed to glow on their own accord. Or perhaps it was from the brightening lights of the city. Salt and minerals mixed within the water clung to the rocks and wooden dock posts like microscopic barnacles, slowly wearing away the fibers that held each sliver of wood together. The waves made no sound.
Rachel Williams dangled her legs over the edge of the pier, gazing down into the fathomless depths of the black liquid beneath her. The water moved in an irregular pattern, the light glinting off its rippling surface in a million different patterns like a hundred silver snakes. Rachel removed a slightly-crumpled magnolia from her pocket and turned it over in her hand absently, her mind as lost as the drifting kelp on the tide. Magnolias had been Margaret's favorite flower.
She dropped the blossom into the water and whispered a silent good-bye to her best friend. The magnolia floated on the surface of the ocean for a minute, then overtook water and sank down to rest among hundreds of colorless kelp like a single star in the LA-smog-clouded night sky. Rachel watched it sink and let out a heavy sigh, knowing that she had finally laid her friend to rest. She stood and gazed out at the unswerving horizon.
She backed away from the edge of the pier slowly, her eyes fixated on something out on the ocean. Her eyes widened and her breathing issued in ragged gasps. The ocean did not respond to her sudden fright. She turned on her heel and thundered back down the dock, her feet knocking out different notes on each wooden plank. She didn't turn around, but she just kept running, fearing not for herself but for her sense, that which she felt like she had none left of. Nothing even mattered now.
A single shark's fin cut through the water like a hunting knife; blue and black scales barely visible through the blanket of ocean.
CONGRATULATIONS!!!! YOU MADE IT TO THE END!!! Either you really like this story, which makes me happy, or you have nothing better to do!!!
Author's note: So, whadja think? Creepy ending, huh? If you read this first and are wondering about a thing or two as far as characters go and junk like that, you can read "Impulse", or "Absolute Zero", which were also written by yours truly. Sorry about any typos.
Dedication: This is the first time I've done a dedication, so here goes... This story is dedicated to, who, of course, but my best friend, fellow X-phile and shipper, and co-writer in the "Cumulation" series, Riva. (Would you puh-leeze finish "Visions", already?!!) Troi rules forever! This is also dedicated to Shannon and Bekka, hope you find time to read this. This is dedicated to all the X-philes residing in Malibu or near Zuma beach... (go sharks!!) The ocean rocks, even if there *are* sea monsters swimming in it. Special thanks to Curry Chandler for providing the Mulder-and-dollar-bill-in-the-soda-machine-scene. And finally, although she will never read this, to Rachel Rivas, who helped me overcome my fear of roller coasters. ;)