They were barely out of sight when Bill began pushing his horse faster. “Bill!” Charlie called after him. “Hold up!”
“Hold up?” The larger man pulled up reluctantly. “We need to get going. We should have been out of here two days ago.”
“Two days ago we had things we needed to finish before we could leave. Matt isn’t even to Momma Ruth’s himself yet, cool it.” Charlie’s voice had an edge of command to it.
“How can you be sure?” Bill sounded pissed on the way to angry.
Charlie motioned to Sam. “If he were there, Katy would tell Sam. Trust the process, Bill.”
Bill moved on ahead of them again, rather than comment. Charlie looked over at Sam and shrugged. Sam only grinned. He was delighted to finally be making the equivalent of a vaccine run. If it got him out of the fields for a week or so, he wasn’t going to complain.
Even though they were moving at an easy pace, Charlie called for a halt to rest the horses after a couple of hours. Bill managed to keep his mouth shut, but he wasn’t happy.
Their next stop, for lunch and again to rest the horses, he rounded on his younger brother. “What’s the deal? We haven’t gotten above a damn trot. We need - “
“We need to make sure nothing happens to these horses. In case you haven’t noticed, we have the entire herd and all future potential with us on this trip. We have given ourselves plenty of time to reach Momma Ruth’s. We’ll probably take even longer getting back. Mulder, Todd and Anne went over the route with Sam and me. You were invited as I recall.”
Bill glared at him, but didn’t speak.
When they continued on, Charlie and Sam rode side by side, catching up with each other. Sam had Charlie laughing at stories of the kids that he hadn’t heard. Bill kept his distance.
It wasn’t until they stopped for the night that Bill finally joined them. Charlie cooked; lunch had been cold, so the hot meal was appreciated.
Charlie and Sam ate slowly, savoring it. Bill just wolfed it down. When they were finished, Sam took clean up. When he was away from them Charlie turned to Bill. “We made good time today, so what’s eating you now? We’re on the way; we’re going to get Matt.”
“Good time? I want to get there. But we have to be careful with Mulder’s horses.”
“Okay, we’re out here all alone. Just what the hell is your problem with Mulder?”
“My problem? Are you kidding?”
“No, I really want to know.”
“How can you just ignore all the pain, the hell that man has caused our family?”
“All the . . . what are you talking about?” Charlie leaned back.
“He’s the reason Melissa is dead.”
“Melissa is dead because a lowlife shot her in the head. Mulder had nothing to do with it, other than protecting Dana so the same thing didn’t happen to her.”
“She wouldn’t have needed protecting if she hadn’t worked with him.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“It’s true. And look at all the other things that have happened to her, disappearing for months, being in a coma, the cancer - “
“You think Mulder gave her cancer?” Charlie just watched the man.
“I think all the crazy stuff he was mixed up with caused it, when she was missing, you know - “
“What I know is that the crazy stuff he was mixed up with saved her. That chip - “
Bill groaned. “You believe that?”
“Yeah, I do.”
Bill made a rude noise. “Okay you tell me, why do you think he’s such an all-round great guy?”
Charlie leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees, “Well, he’s got a great sense of humor. I really enjoy working with him. And no job is beneath him, even if he is ‘Mulder’. I mean, if he’s on compost duty, he does it, if he’s supposed to split wood, he splits it; then, when he’s through he comes to help you finish up.” Charlie took a deep breath.
“Then there’s Missy.”
“Missy? Your daughter?”
Charlie nodded. “If Mulder hadn’t been there that night . . . “ He looked up at Bill. “I’ve never been so scared in my life. Mulder kept it calm.”
“Mulder delivered your daughter?”
“He started to.”
“Where the hell was Dana?”
“At the next bed. MJ was born about two minutes before Missy. Fortunately he just slipped on out, because I came damn close to losing both Mary and Missy that night.”
“What went . . . “
“Everything. The cord was wrapped around Missy’s whole body. She was in distress, Mary was in agony. I . . . Dana moved right over when Mulder realized something was wrong. She just gave him instructions and together . . . They’re a team. Maybe that’s the thing I like best about the man, Bill, he fits our sister. They fit together like no one I’ve ever seen. Sometimes I think they’re even closer than Mary and I. He’s a good father and he adores Dana. He makes her happy.”
Bill looked away then and realized Sam was standing there, listening. “I suppose you think he can walk on water as well.”
Sam shrugged, “No.” He seemed to be thinking of the right words as he took a seat next to Charlie. “I know I’d be considered a kid in the old world. In school, the leaders I knew were always . . . arrogant, thought they were better than anyone else. Mulder doesn’t. And he doesn’t treat me like a kid. When, when we had that meeting about the clone, he asked me my opinion and he listened to it.” The boy shrugged again. “I feel like I’m . . . a full citizen. Important.”
Charlie’s hand squeezed his shoulder. "You are. Let's get some sleep."
The next day Bill was less standoffish and when they stopped for the night, Sam turned to him. "Can I . . . may I ask you a question?"
Charlie grinned. Bill looked up at the young man, "Uh, yeah."
"What do you remember?"
Bill looked away, focusing on the fire. "My memories aren't real. Chrissy . . .”
"I know, but . . . but what did they want you to think?"
Charlie's hand came up to stop him, but Bill shook his head. "We were at sea." He stretched out his legs and settled against his pack. "We expected to be out a couple of months. Then one of the men got a cable that his wife had died. It happens, but it's always a shock. She’d caught a virus; that was all we knew. Then another one came, and another. Then we were flooded. I don't know if anyone was unaffected. I . . . I heard about Tara on the second day. I just got a cable that she was gone and Matt was with the Hartley's.
“Of course we requested permission to head in, but we were told we were being quarantined. That the virus was apparently a pandemic and since we hadn't been exposed . . . That didn't sit well with anyone, but orders are orders.”
Bill shifted to get comfortable. Sam leaned forward listening, his elbows on his knees.
"Then we lost communication. The systems were working, but no one responded. We were able to raise some distant bases, but no one could give us information on San Diego." He watched the fire for a few minutes.
"We decided to head in. We were all scared, and we needed information. We docked without a fight. That was something we were worried about, being fired on by our own, but there was no blockade. We were met by MPs and herded into a warehouse at the dock. They wanted to debrief us, but we knew nothing. We just wanted to find out what had happened to our families.
"When we were released, I raced over to the house. Of course it was empty. I tried neighbors, but the place was deserted. No one could tell me where Matt was, where the Hartley’s might have taken him, even if he was still alive. There was no gravesite to visit. The bodies had been incinerated for fear of contagion. I couldn’t live at the house and transportation was already a problem. I moved into a barracks."
He went silent then and Sam looked over at Charlie. “I’m sorry, Uncle Bill.”
Bill nodded. “It wasn’t true.”
“What wasn’t true?” It was Charlie asking now.
Bill stared into the fire. “Everything that happened after I got off the ship. The MPs weren’t MPs, and the warehouse wasn’t . . . I was . . . I was with them, the a-aliens. They could make people see what they wanted to see. I remember searching for Matt; I remember talking to people, but . . . but it didn’t happen.”
Bill rose abruptly. “We need to get some sleep.”
“Yeah,” Charlie nodded. “I’ll get the fire.”
They were quiet then, each thinking their own thoughts.
The next morning Bill didn’t ride off ahead of them, but stayed with them. They didn’t talk a lot, but were more comfortable together.
When they made camp that night, Bill fixed dinner. Both Charlie and Sam were surprised at how well he did. When they settled in after clean up, it was Bill that started the conversation. “Okay, we know I was incarcerated. How about you guys? Did you stay in Columbus? How did you catch up with Dana?”
Charlie grimaced. “No, we left Columbus almost immediately. The virus hit us later than the larger cities, but soon enough. Mom had raced to us from DC when Dana had told her what was happening. She knew the virus was carried by bees and Dana had talked her into taking some of her blood. She shared it with us as soon as she got there. Thank God she made it when she did.
“We took off, heading for DC, but we didn’t get far. There weren’t any deliveries of gas for personal vehicles almost immediately. We made it as far as Devola, Ohio. That’s a small town on the eastern border. That’s where the gas ran out. We’d avoided the highways, so we got farther than a lot of people.”
“They took you in?”
Charlie nodded. “We were healthy, able to work. The boys were big enough to help in the fields too. We took over the house of an older couple that had died. They quit letting people stay very soon after us, they realized that there’d be no food deliveries. We got gardens going right away, but . . . “ Charlie looked over at Sam. “It was rough. We were hungry.”
He sighed, “We were real hungry. We lost people because of it. Those that survived the virus . . . then they died of starvation.” He shook his head. “We were considered important, Mary being a nutritionist. She kept a lot of people alive.”
Charlie stretched out in his sleeping bag then, the memories of life before Quonochontaug overwhelming him for a moment.
“I’m not saying being held captive by aliens was any picnic, Bill, but it was bad out here. Anne, Todd’s wife, the woman that’s pregnant?” He added at Bill’s blank look. “We met her there. She’d been . . . she’d been used. She managed to stay alive. By the time she got to Devola . . . well, Mom took her in.”
“Used? You mean . . . “
“She had to stay alive.”
Bill glanced over at Sam; he understood. “This town, Devola, did you want to leave?”
Sam snorted before Charlie could reply. Charlie smiled at his son, “Yeah, we wanted to leave. There was another ‘Sam’ there. He had been mayor before the virus. Apparently that gave him authority when civilization broke down. He had a greatly decreased population. He did get the people moving, gathered the people closer in town where we could communicate in an emergency, and consolidated the available food.”
“So what was wrong with him?” Bill shifted to a more comfortable position in his sleeping bag.
“Having a Ph.D. in Nutrition wasn’t the only reason he wanted Mary. She’s a young woman, capable of bearing children. So was Anne.”
Bill blinked at that, “He, he wanted to breed them?” He glanced over at Sam by way of apology, but Sam was nodding.
“Even though we were short on food, he wanted to increase the population. He thought of women as wealth. Hell, maybe he was planning to create an army to fight them. I wasn’t part of his inner circle. He was also after Mom.”
“Mom? What do you mean, ‘after’?”
“I mean, he wanted her for his consort. I’m sure he planned to have other women to carry his children, but he wanted her to act as matriarch and help him keep order.”
“What did you do?”
“Me? Not much. We worked; kept our heads down . . . Then Walter came.”
“Mulder found out where we were, and sent for us. Walter, Todd and Alex came.” Charlie grinned, “Walter and Mom made Sam think they had a long standing relationship. Well, they did, but not the kind they presented to him. Really pissed Sam off and he kind of threw us out. I wasn’t sure we’d get Anne out, but Walter didn’t flinch.”
“Why didn’t Mulder come for you?” That belligerent tone was back in his voice.
Charlie closed his eyes for a moment to count to ten. “Dana was pregnant with Katy. She couldn’t make the trip and he didn’t want to leave her. She had Katy about three weeks after we got there.”
Bill gave a short nod and turned to Sam, “What do you remember?”
“I remember mostly being scared in Devola.” Sam admitted. “We were hungry and isolated and I hated working in the fields.”
“You work in the fields now.” Bill observed.
“It’s different, now I’m doing it for my family. We own it, not Sam or a bunch of strangers I don’t care about. And we’re not isolated anymore.”
“How are we not isolated?”
Sam grinned, “We have contacts all over the US and Canada; a few in Europe. We’re growing every day.”
Bill watched him for a moment, “Katy?”
Sam smiled, “Yes, and she’s taught Will and me a lot.”
“You can hear her.”
Sam nodded, “And the others now. Missy is with MJ at Hickey’s. Chrissy is ‘talking’ to Lee.”
“Lee?” Bill looked over at Charlie with that question, but Charlie was looking at Sam.
“Chrissy can talk to Lee?”
“Well, they can communicate.”
Charlie finally looked over at Bill, “Lee is the baby Anne’s carrying.”
Bill swallowed hard, “Will Matt be able to . . . “
Sam shrugged, “If he wants to. Suzanne, Petey and John picked it up really fast. Tracy and Jennifer are pretty good.”
”What about the . . . us older ones?” Bill asked.
“Mulder and Scully can.”
“You call her Scully too?” Bill sounded a little aggrieved at that.
“It’s faster than Aunt Dana. Besides, she’s ‘the Scully’ known around the world, just like he’s ‘the Mulder’.”
Bill shook his head, “’The Mulder’. Christ. If he knew so much, why didn’t he try to stop it?”
Charlie opened his mouth to tell Bill to shut up, but Sam was speaking. “Nobody believed him. And people like you called him crazy.” He said it without malice. “Besides, it didn’t work.”
“What didn’t work?”
“The virus. I’m sorry, I know Aunt Tara died, but the virus didn’t work the way it was supposed to.”
“What do you mean?” Charlie was asking now.
“Well, the virus was supposed to make an alien grow inside of us. That’s how they reproduce. You know, like what they did to Sc - to Aunt Dana in Antarctica. Instead people died without growing anything. Katy thinks they moved before they were ready or it got away from them in Russia. That or it mutated out here in the real world.”
“It was supposed to grow an alien?” Charlie sounded strangled.
“Uh, yeah. That’s what was happening in the spaceship where Mulder found Scully. They used human bodies like eggs, then they burst out when they were ready to be born. That didn’t happen. It never got that far. The people infected died instead.”
“How do you know this?” Bill looked between Charlie and Sam, confused.
“I didn’t.” Charlie admitted.
“Katy found out. She told us. She hasn’t been able to get close to an alien, and the clones don’t know anything, but that’s her theory.”
“She’s not going to get close to one either. Not if Mulder and Dana have anything to say about it.”
Sam grinned, “I know. She really just wants to see if she can read them, but don’t worry. She’s got no plans to go hunting.”
“Good to hear.” Charlie said dryly. “Come on we need to get some rest.”
They were eating their cold breakfast on horseback the next morning when Sam looked over at the two men and smiled. “Matt should reach Mama Ruth’s tomorrow.”
Bill’s head shot up. “When should we get there?”
“The next day. That’ll give him a chance to rest up a little. And there’s a woman with them who’s coming with us as well.”
Charlie’s look asked the question. Sam just grinned and shrugged.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.