Mulder watched as the guard led Austin towards the table. Now, face to face, he could see the resemblance even with the scars. Austin took his seat and appraised the man in front of him suspiciously.
“You wanted to see me?”
“Yes, thank you. I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder. I don’t have a lot of time, so I’m going to cut to the chase. Do you recognize me?”
“Recognize? Why, did you arrest me some time?”
“No. How about this picture?” Mulder laid a picture of Carson on the table between them.”
Austin’s eyes narrowed. “This is you, younger.”
Mulder shook his head. “Try again. Look at the eyes.”
The man shrugged. “He looks familiar.”
“How about this?” Mulder put another picture on the table.
The younger man’s eyes narrowed at the sight of this picture. “Where did you get this?”
“It’s not you.”
“What do you mean it’s not me? Then who it is?”
“A young friend of mine.”
Austin picked up the picture of Carson again and looked at Mulder, then back at the picture of the young boy. “What the hell’s going on here? Who are you really?”
“What happened the night your sister disappeared?” Mulder countered.
Austin jerked back then, a mixture of fury and fear on his face. “How the hell do you know about that?”
“It happened to me and him, and him.” Mulder pointed to the two pictures. “Since I didn’t have a brother, and my parents divorced, I’d say we aren’t related. I’d say that none of us are related, but . . . “
For a long moment Austin looked at him. “Your sister was taken?”
Mulder nodded. “And yours and both of these guys.”
“I’m not sure. I didn’t know about any of you until recently.”
“Are there others?”
“Yeah. I know of two. I’m not sure I’m the oldest, but right now it looks that way.”
“So if I’d stayed out of trouble I’d look like you?”
Mulder grinned then. “Looks like it. When you get out we can work on that.”
“If I get out.”
“You’ve got a reason to get out now. I need your help. We all need your help.”
“Don’t you want to know what’s going on? Why all of us, why take our sisters?”
“You don’t think I hurt Megan?”
“No, and I know I didn’t hurt Samantha, and this boy didn’t hurt Sara.”
“What about this guy?” Austin pointed to Carson.
“He’s dead. Suicide. He was a biology major, brilliant. He may have learned something, I don’t know.”
“You sure it was suicide?”
“Not completely. This investigation seems to have a lot of avenues.”
“I can’t see myself working with the FBI.”
“This isn’t an FBI investigation. This one’s personal,” Mulder responded.
Austin looked at him for a long moment. “I need to think about it.”
Mulder nodded. “I understand that. All I ask is that you keep this between us.”
“Who the hell would I tell?”
“Tell me what happened that night,” Mulder said quietly.
“I don’t know. I’ve never known and even if I did, why should I tell you? Okay, we look alike, but - “
“We more than look alike and you know it.
“But why should I believe you? You’ve shown me pictures that you say are other people. I think you’ll understand that I’m not in the habit of just believing FBI agents.”
“I know about Megan.”
Austin looked away for a moment. “There was a time when a lot of people knew about it. The FBI even looked for her.”
“Not very well.”
“I’ve seen the file. They did a half-assed job looking for her just like they did for Samantha and Sara. It was an exercise. I know, because Samantha is the reason I joined the damned Bureau.”
“You’re still looking into it?”
“What should I be doing? Getting into barroom brawls, knocking over convenience stores . . . committing suicide?”
The younger man shrugged. “I’m not giving you any DNA.”
Mulder grinned. “Under the circumstances I don’t blame you. But that is a good idea. Carson’s out of the question, but I can get some from our youngest friend.”
“Is he the youngest?”
“I don’t know how to find out until another sister is taken. That could be four years from now, unless we stop it.”
“We, kemo sabi?”
“Hey, bro, who else would I ask?” Mulder pushed back from the table. “All I can ask of you right now is to think about it.”
“Are you going to talk to the others?”
“Yeah.” Mulder rose to his feet.
“Will you let me know?”
Mulder hesitated, then nodded. “I need to get home. I’ll be in touch.”
“Who is she?”
Mulder’s head jerked up. “Who?”
“The woman you have to get back to.”
“What are you talking about?” Mulder had stiffened and Austin leaned back to meet his eyes.
“I’m not sure. But you have to get home because of her.”
After a moment Mulder nodded.
“Okay. Maybe we can talk about her next time.”
“I don’t think so,” Mulder said, his voice harsh.
“Hey, look, I’m sorry. It just came to me, like she was part of all this.”
“I’ll talk to you in a few days.” Mulder turned away then, trying hard not to be disturbed by those words. She would pick up on it and he didn’t want that. Once in the parking lot, he took a couple of deep breaths, then pulled out his cell phone.
“Mulder?” She didn’t bother with hello. “Are you okay?”
“I’m good. Austin is one of us.”
“I know. Are you coming home now?”
“Yes. I want to hold you.”
She chuckled. “You haven’t been gone but a few hours.”
“That’s right, hours.” He paused, then. “Did you ever take a sample of Rob’s DNA?”
“DNA? No, why?”
“Just trying to figure out what’s going on.”
“Mulder, you’re close, why don’t you take the long way home and go by there.”
“I don’t want his mother to know.”
“Okay. I can contact him; see if he can meet you after school.”
“That’ll make me late getting home.”
“I’ll save you a place in the bed.”
“You better. You’ll be okay?”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll call you after I get in touch with Rob. And don’t speed home. You don’t want to get pulled.”
“Pulled? Remember, I’m a G-man, they wouldn’t dare.”
“Don’t push it.”
He pulled into the parking lot just as school was letting out. Scully had left a message on Rob’s phone and he had called her back between classes. Mulder stayed in his car. Scully had described what he was driving; Rob would be looking for him.
He’d been waiting less than five minutes when he spotted the boy coming towards him. Rob opened the passenger door and slipped into the front seat beside him.
“Hi. Dr. Scully said you needed some DNA from me.”
Mulder nodded. “Do you mind?”
“No. Did you go to the prison?”
“Yeah, did she tell you that too?”
“No, it just seemed like that would be logical. At least you knew where he would be.”
Mulder grinned. “I should check in with you more often.”
“So, how do we do this?”
“I don’t carry around DNA gathering equipment. I guess the best thing would be to take some of your hair with the roots attached.”
“Okay.” Rob reached up and pulled several hairs from his head.
Mulder found an old bank envelope and Rob dropped the hairs into it. Mulder closed it up, folded it and tucked it into his coat pocket.
“What are you trying to find?”
“I don’t know, but our resemblance, the others . . . It’s not a coincidence.”
Rob nodded. “Will you let me know what you find?”
After a slight hesitation, Mulder nodded. “If I can.”
“You want to protect me.”
Rob nodded. “Let me know what you can. I gotta go or I’ll miss my bus.”
Rob shrugged and let himself out of the car.
He beat her home by a few minutes and met her at the door. “Are you okay?”
She started to roll her eyes, but he pulled her against him and she came willingly.
“Tell me what you found.” She led him to the couch.
“Shouldn’t you eat?”
“I am going to scream if you don’t - “
But she saw that he was grinning now. He pulled the envelope out of his pocket. “I have Rob’s hair. We need to do a DNA test.”
“Did you get Austin’s as well?”
He shook his head. “No, and there was no way to compel it. It is part of this. After we get the results from Rob - “
“Comparing it to yours?”
“Who do you trust to do it?”
“Me? I don’t do a lot of this kind of thing.”
“But you have.”
“In school,” she protested.
“But you know the procedure. Can you get what you need?”
After a minute she nodded.
Mulder waited, standing just outside of Stephen’s room waiting. According to his class schedule, Stephen should be here soon. Mulder had taken the chance that Stephen would come by his dorm before going anywhere else.
When the hall door opened Mulder turned away from the message board on Stephen’s door and looked up. Stephen stepped inside, then halted when he saw the man at his door. “May I help you?”
“I hope so. Are you Stephen Stoner?” It wasn’t a question Mulder needed to ask, he was easily recognizable. This was how he had looked when he arrived at Oxford. Well, maybe a little more developed because of the competitive swimming, but still lean, except for the nose.
“Yes.” The young man was looking at him now, curious. “Do I know you?”
“We haven’t met. My name is Fox Mulder.” He held out his ID for inspection.
“FBI? What’s going on?”
“Could we step into your room?”
“I don’t have a lot of time. I’m supposed to meet some friends in a little while.”
“This doesn’t have to take long.”
Stephen shrugged and took out his key. “The place is a mess, I wasn’t expecting company.”
Mulder grinned but made no comment; just followed him inside. It wasn’t that bad. His apartment was often worse, or had been before Dana moved in.
Stephen moved the books from the desk chair and motioned for Mulder to take a seat. Stephen sat on the bed, facing him. “What is this about?”
“I want to talk to you about your brother.”
Stephen’s face grew hard and cold. “I have to go.” He rose in clear dismissal but Mulder didn’t move.
“Then let me talk about him. Let’s see, you were home alone, babysitting him. Your parents had gone out, but probably in the neighborhood. With no warning the power died and you’re in the dark. Then Kevin starts screaming.”
All of the color had left Stephen’s face and he sank back down onto the bed.
“Who the hell are you?”
Stephen’s eyes narrowed. “That tells me nothing.”
Mulder nodded and pulled two photographs out of his coat pocket. “I’d like you to look at these pictures.” He handed them over to Stephen.
The younger man looked down at them and Mulder watched his anger grow. “Where the fuck did you get these pictures of me?”
“They aren’t you, Steve.”
“Stephen. The hell they aren’t.”
“I’m not lying to you. This one is a young friend of mine, this one,” Mulder pointed to them, “is me.”
Stephen’s lips moved but he made no sound. Mulder sighed. “My sister, Samantha, was taken when I was twelve. That was the scenario when she was taken. My friend’s sister was taken last year, when he was twelve.”
Stephen shook his head. “Why are you doing this?”
“So far I know of six of us.”
Mulder nodded. “Do you still have to go?”
“What is this?”
“The truth, I don’t know. But I want to find out.”
Stephen studied him for a long moment. “Talk to me.”
“So far I’m the oldest. There seems to be five years between each . . . abduction.”
“Who else have you talked to?”
“I’d like this kept between us.”
After a moment Stephen nodded. “Who would I tell?”
“No. I don’t volunteer information to them.”
Mulder made no comment, silently agreeing with him. “I’ve met with Roger Austin, he follows me in line. Samantha was taken November 27, 1973. His sister, Megan, was taken October 7, 1978. Austin is in prison. He . . . he didn’t do well after what happened.”
“Wrong crowd, his parents divorced. Sound familiar?”
Stephen’s eyes narrowed again. “Who else?”
“Next in line was Carson Nelson. Jenny was taken in 1983.”
Mulder looked down at his hands, fingers entwined. “He didn’t do too well either.”
“He’s in prison too?”
“No, he committed suicide.”
Stephen’s jaw dropped open. “Well, this is a fun conversation. So far our little group has a G-man, a felon, a suicide and a couple of students.”
“Three students actually. There’s one five years younger than you.”
“Jesus. What the hell are you talking about?”
“We’re linked. We’ve all been through this experience and if I’m not mistaken, when your parents arrived home they found you unconscious.”
“Now you have an eidetic memory.”
Stephen’s eyes widened. “How did you - “
“I have it too. All of us do as far as I can tell. But we can’t remember that night.”
Stephen rose then and began to pace around the room. “Do you expect me to just buy this?”
“I know it’s a lot to absorb. What I need from you is a sample of your DNA.”
“My DNA? You think we’re, what, related?”
Mulder spread his hands. “Do you think all of these connections are coincidence? Do you think we just happen to look like each other?”
“I don’t have a clue what to think. Tell me why I should believe any of this. All you have is a story and a couple of pictures that you say are you and some kid.”
“Yeah, it is pretty wild. Your father, he’s an attorney with an international firm. My father worked for the State Department. Austin’s grandfather, his mother’s father, was an admiral.”
“What about the guy that offed himself?”
“His father owns an import/export company. He travels a lot.”
They sat for several minutes then. Mulder didn’t try to break the silence. Finally Stephen met his eyes. “Why were they taken?”
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.