“I’m fine. Go ahead.” Scully sighed and leaned back.
“You’re not fine. Talk to me.”
She shook her head, “It was just seeing . . . I knew they weren’t human. It was just hard.”
Mulder’s arm went around her. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.”
“That’s my fault,” Walter spoke up then. “I’m the one that forced us to rush off to Atlanta. I didn’t think . . . I didn’t think about how much you, you need to be together. I should have, I saw Scully all that time you and Danny were gone - “
“Walter, it was necessary. I do understand. I’m not sure why actually seeing the process affected me so; I’ve certainly seen worse over the years.” Scully looked up at him and saw that his guilt looked a lot like what she was used to with Mulder.
“Thanks,” Mulder said quickly.
“You know what I mean. “ She managed a small smile at that.
“Yes, I know.” He pulled her against him.
“I think it was knowing that Danny and, and let’s face it, Katy were having to turn them off. I know it has to be done.” She took a deep breath. “Contact the guys; have them get John and Monica to call us. Come on, we need to know what’s happening.” She managed a feeble smile.
She looked over at Walter and he nodded. Mulder pulled the laptop toward him. When he logged on he found three urgent messages to check in. Scully’s eyebrow went up at the sight. “I guess we really did shake things up.”
Mulder picked up the phone and dialed the number listed in the email.
“About damn time!” Frohike’s voice sounded loud and angry.
“Sorry, we just got your message.”
“We didn’t know what had happened to you. Things are strange around here. Lots of people disappearing. We thought . . . “ His voice broke with emotion then.
It was obvious what they had thought. “We’re sorry. Everyone here is fine. What’s happening there?” Mulder asked quickly.
“We don’t know. Our inside friends are frantic. Seems like all of their friends took the day off.”
“Any reason given?”
“They’re on their way here. Should be here in a couple of minutes. We were going to try to reach you ourselves.”
“That bad?” Mulder asked.
“Hold it.” Frohike went silent, then they heard him sigh. “It’s them. Come on in. We’ve got them.” He was obviously speaking to people at his location.
“Thank god.” Mulder heard Monica’s voice in the background.
“I’m putting you on speaker,” Mulder spoke up. “What’s happened?”
“Good to hear your voice, man. We weren’t sure . . . “ John spoke up.
“Everybody’s fine here. What’s going on?”
“Remember a couple of years ago when everyone vanished? It’s happened again, even more abruptly. Was there a reason?”
“Yes,” Mulder said simply.
“How secure are we?” Mulder asked quickly.
“As secure as we can make it. Ask Shorty,” Langly responded.
Danny laughed, but nodded. “We’re okay.”
Mulder looked over at Walter, then back at Scully, squeezing her hand. He quickly related what had happened over the past few days.
There was a long moment of silence at the other end of the phone. “You coulda warned us.” John’s tone was dry, just short of angry.
“We needed to jump on it. Any idea where everyone went?”
“Chicago,” Danny spoke suddenly. Everyone turned to look at him. “They know something’s wrong. They don’t . . . quit. They don’t have like, jobs. What they do is their lives. They can’t just leave, so they know something had to have happened to the ones that are missing. Since they think no one can hurt them, they’re worried.”
“How worried?” Mulder asked.
Danny shrugged, “Worried enough to get together and fight about it. They think they’re the only ones that can hurt them.”
“They’re all together?” Mulder looked over at Scully. Her eyes were wide as she discerned his intent.
“They just made this big deal about keeping apart and now this happens. So are we leaving for Chicago?” Danny asked excitedly.
“No!” Mulder and Scully spoke together, but Scully’s voice was harsher.
”But we’ve got them! We could - “
“How many?” Mulder asked.
After a brief pause, Danny met his eyes. “Thirty-one.”
Scully shuddered and Mulder’s arm went around her. “That’s not all of them.”
“No, but it’s the leaders . . . “ Danny’s voice trailed off. “There’s something else with them.”
Mulder looked at Scully, but asked quietly, “What else?”
“It’s less human than they are and it can read their minds.”
“Danny!” Scully jerked forward.
“No, it’s not aware of me. Those things, the Super Soldiers don’t have any mind shields at all.”
“Back away, Kiddo.” Mulder said, “That ‘thing’ is very dangerous.”
Danny opened his mouth to protest, but the look in his father’s eye caused him to close his mouth.
After a slight pause, Mulder looked over at Walter. "If it is the leaders, we can get a lot of information. Danny can get names and locations. We'll get that information to you as soon as we can. What else is going on?"
"Kersh seemed rattled at some of the names of the missing. Whatever he knows, he didn't think it went this deep."
"Why am I not surprised," Mulder muttered. "Okay. Tomorrow night, same time. We'll try to have a list for you."
"Be careful." That from Monica.
"We will be," Scully answered and the connection was broken.
Mulder looked over at Danny. “Can you get names, locations?”
“Mulder, the al . . . the other thing.” Scully looked up at him, her fear plain.
“Alien?” He gave her a sad smile. “Now you believe me?” He pulled her closer. “Danny, can you get any information without giving yourself away?”
He nodded solemnly. “I can, Dad. I’ll be careful.”
Scully’s hand gripped Mulder’s arm. Walter could see how torn he was. His offer came immediately. “Mulder, I could get to Chicago tonight. If Danny can give me directions, I could get photos, or - “
“No. If one of the aliens is there, he’ll know. You don’t have a mind shield either. If Danny can do it, he would be safer than we would be.”
Walter glanced over at Scully’s anguished face. She was watching Danny.
“I’ll be careful, Mom. I promise. We need to do this.”
“I know.” Her voice sounded infinitely sad. Walter looked away as Mulder pulled her closer.
“Danny, let’s see what you can get.” Walter stood and moved to the kitchen table. Danny followed, giving his parents some time.
Walter knocked on the apartment door as Mulder stood in the kitchen having his first cup of coffee. He opened the door quickly to let Walter in. "What's wrong?" The look on Walter's face was stern; full AD mode.
"Is Danny up?"
"I think we need to talk to him."
"You want to bring me up to speed first?" Mulder turned back from pouring coffee for Walter.
“I don’t think that list we made last night is going to do us as much good as we thought.” He sounded cryptic.
“Why do you want Danny?”
"I'm here." Danny stepped into the kitchen, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
Mulder looked at him, then back to Walter. "Okay, what's going on?"
“There was a fire in Chicago last night. It was an abandoned building near the river, an old warehouse. Homeless people had taken up in it. It was more crowded than usual last night.” Walter looked over at Danny. “The bodies were burnt quickly in an extremely hot fire according to what I heard.”
"Where did you hear about it?" Mulder asked, still slightly confused.
"CNN, then I got on-line and checked deeper." Walter was watching Danny.
“What are you . . . what are you saying?” Mulder glanced between Danny and his former boss.
“It would be a good location for a private meeting in Chicago. The police don’t patrol there with any regularity. Rumor has it most of the bodies were in one large room.” He looked over at Mulder then, "I believe you've seen this kind of burning before."
After a long moment they both turned to Danny. "Is there anything you want to tell us?" Mulder asked in a quiet voice.
“I . . . I didn’t start the fire, but I knew about it. It . . . it woke me up.” Danny's head was down and his fingers picked at his pajamas top. “They . . . They go down for awhile when they’re that badly hurt. While they were down, Katy and I popped their rings.”
"You did what? You were in contact from here?" Mulder sounded stunned.
"How were they burned, Danny? What did it?" Walter stepped in, giving Mulder a moment.
"That thing that was with them last night; he had a stick that burned them. It wouldn't have killed them, but I'm not sure he knew that." Danny wouldn't face either of them.
“Where are they now, the rings?” Mulder voice was under control again, which seemed to make Danny fidget even more.
“We rolled them into the trash. They’re all broken apart, so they don’t look like back bones or anything, just twisted pieces of metal in with other metal and trash. I did stay away, Daddy, honest. When the other one started burning them, I was really surprised.”
“Did it have a face?”
Slowly Danny shook his head. "It did at first, but . . . "
Mulder leaned back with a huff. “Hell, I don’t even know what we’re fighting anymore. Why would aliens try to kill the soldiers?"
"The project wasn't working. Something had gone wrong, even before we started turning them off." Danny offered. "You told me to stay away, so I didn't get it all."
"You heard me tell you to stay away?" There was a tinge of sarcasm in Mulder's voice, and Danny looked down, his cheeks red.
Mulder's hand scrubbed his face, but he didn't respond. Instead he turned to Walter. “I’ll get Scully. I think I should stay home - “
“Mulder, I’ll be here. Go on. There’s not a lot we can do right now. I’ll send a message to the guys; see what they can find out.”
Mulder looked toward the bedroom door. “She’s already so stressed.”
Walter waited. He couldn’t order these people around any more.
“I’ll talk to her,” Mulder sighed.
Mulder ruffled his son’s hair. “I’m not angry . . . I want you to be safe. I want your mother and your sister safe. Taking chances makes that harder. I know you know that, but do you understand it?” He took the boy into his arms and held him. After a long moment, he set the boy back on his feet. “I need to talk to your mother.”
Danny nodded, his eyes wet. He wouldn’t meet Walter’s eyes at all.
Mulder opened the door carefully. He never left home without kissing her goodbye, but rarely did he wake her. This time he caressed her face and whispered, so as not to disturb Katy. “Scully, wake up baby.”
“Shh. Come on in the kitchen.”
Concerned, she rose immediately and took the robe he handed her. She glanced at Katy, sleeping peacefully in her crib, then let Mulder lead her out. He eased the door closed behind them.
“What is it?”
He pulled her into a tight embrace, holding her for just a moment. “Come have a cup of coffee.”
She started to protest, but he was already moving away, her hand clasped in his.
Walter nodded to her and placed a mug of coffee in front of her as she sank into her chair at the table. Danny wouldn’t meet her eyes.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
After a glance at Mulder, Walter brought her up to date. She gasped when she realized the distance involved. When Walter went silent, she looked over at Danny.
It took him a moment, but he finally met her eyes.
“Were you detected?” she asked softly.
“No, Mom. I was careful.”
“What about Katy?”
“She has a better shield than I do.”
“She does?” Mulder sat up straighter then.
Danny nodded, grabbing onto the change of subject. “I helped her since before she was born.”
The adults absorbed that in silence, then Walter cleared her throat. “Mind if I turn on the TV?”
“Of course not.” Scully rose and held out her hand to Danny. He took it gratefully and sat close by her side on the couch as they watched the lead story on CNN. Thirty-one bodies had been recovered. That number caused the adults to exchange glances.
“Danny, you said there were thirty-one of the soldiers there.” Danny nodded. “Where were the homeless?” Mulder asked.
“The soldiers threw them out. They didn’t want anyone to overhear them. They were alone in the building.”
Scully sighed then, at least no innocents had been burned.
“Is the alien still around?” Mulder asked, ignoring Scully’s head jerk up.
Danny shook his head. “I didn’t try to follow him.”
“Good.” Mulder pulled Scully close and just held her for a minute.
“Mulder, you’re going to be late for work.” Scully said softly.
“I hate leaving you.” He looked over at Walter. “I need you to be here all day.”
“I’m not going anywhere. Do you want me to try to reach the guys?”
Mulder shook his head, “Let’s wait until the time we set. They’ll be set up best then. I’m sure they’re doing some investigating as well.” He looked over at Danny. “We’ll still give them the list you got last night, but do you know how many are left, where they might be?”
Danny hesitated. “I think I can find some of them. The leaders are all gone now, so they’ll be hiding as soon as they find out.”
Walter nodded. “Go on, Mulder. Call to check in whenever you need to.”
Mulder took a deep breath, and rose from the couch. He pulled Scully up beside him. He leaned down and hugged and kissed their son, then walked to the door with her.
Walter couldn’t hear what they said, but he saw the tears glistening in her eyes. He turned away when Mulder took her in his arms.
They left the TV on after Mulder left, in case of updates, but all three of them retreated to the kitchen table to go over the list from last night and see what could be salvaged.
Scully answered the phone when it rang at lunchtime. “I love you.”
“I sure hope you knew it was me,” Mulder said in a low, husky voice.
“I had some idea.” She smiled. “You okay?”
“I’d be better at home. Have you found out anything?”
“Yes. We’ve been working on it. Apparently in their panic they’re easier to spot. The problem is, who do we send after them? They can’t be held.”
“Maybe our inside friends will have an idea. We’ll talk about it tonight. I wish I were there.”
“Me too. Hurry home.”
Though he didn’t officially take a nap, Danny did go to his room and rest that afternoon. At Walter’s insistence, Scully lay down as well. He remained at their apartment and did a load of laundry, checked for updates online and basically tried to keep from punching a hole in the wall.
He had taken a seat at the kitchen table to go back over the lists they had created the night before when he realized Danny stood in the doorway.
“You okay, Danny?”
“I remembered something. They were talking, before the alien showed up. They didn’t get finished, but I didn’t understand one of the words.”
“What word?” He pulled out the chair next to him and Danny sat beside him.
Walter felt the blood drain from his face and saw Danny reach for him. He saw Danny’s mouth move, but he was too stunned to understand him. God, he hadn’t thought about this since he’d run. It wasn’t until he saw Scully standing beside him that he realized Danny had called for her.
“Walter, Walter talk to me. What happened?” She looked over at Danny. “What happened?”
“I asked him about a word they used last night - nanites.”
She paled and turned back to Walter. “Danny and Katy won’t let anyone get close to you. You know that, don’t you?” She squeezed his hands and slipped into the chair that Danny had moved closer for her.
The phone rang then but she barely looked in that direction. “Tell Mulder we’re okay.” She spoke to Danny without looking away from Walter.
He nodded and grabbed the phone. “Daddy, it’s okay. No, she can’t come to the phone right now. Daddy, believe me . . . “
“Mulder, I’m fine,” Scully called out. “I’ll call you back.”
“Daddy, it’s okay. I promise. Mom will call you in a little while. She’ll explain everything. Dad, feel of her, you know she’s okay.” He was quiet for a minute, then seemed to smile a little. “Yes, she’ll call you.” He hung up and looked over at his mother.
She nodded and returned her full attention to Walter. “Talk to me.”
“S-Scully, I . . .”
“I know. I hadn’t thought about it either. Did you hear what I said, the kids will keep them away. Danny, can you get this from him?”
Danny met Walter’s eyes and looked at him for a long moment. Danny’s eyes widened in horror. “You died?”
Walter shuddered and Katy cried out. Scully looked toward the bedroom.
“Go get her, Mom. We’ll be okay.”
Scully pressed her hand against Walter’s cheek, then rose to get her daughter. She changed the baby and hurried back. At Danny’s look, she slipped the baby into Walter’s arms. They tightened around the tiny girl and he seemed to draw strength from her.
“Are you feeling better?”
“I’m sorry, I - “
Scully shook her head, “I understand. You haven’t had an attack have you; and kept it secret?”
“No. I hadn’t even remembered them since I joined . . . it just caught me off guard.”
She looked over at her son, “You understand?”
He nodded. “They were talking about them, but they think Uncle Walter’s dead. They were thinking about using them on other people.”
“Did you hear any names?”
He shook his head, “But they’re gone now.”
“The technology isn’t. The few that are left might be desperate.” Walter met Scully’s eyes. “You better call Mulder, reassure him.”
After a long
moment, she nodded and moved to the phone.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.