"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 40 of 45

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"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 40 of 45
E-mail: mrke...@eclipse.net, mrkel...@gmail.com
PG-13 X-File: Myth-arc Disclaimed in Part I
Already sent to Gossamer
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over the Atlantic
Sunday, July 19, 1998
11:36 pm

"We're still on British soil! This airplane is in the custody of the Foreign Office. I want asylum, and I want it now!" Krycek was twisting on the leather seat, his wrists cuffed separately to the supports for the padded arms.

Walter Skinner set his face in a mask. The dark-haired man had been shouting since they had climbed on-board, but, with nearly eight hours left in the flight, he could no longer stand the noise. "Krycek!" He stalked to the back of the plane. "Enough! You know the pilot is American, and the Bureau took over the rental on the ground. Your claim has no standing here. Be quiet. You're on US soil, surrounded by US citizens. You will be charged with the attempted murder of one American citizen. You admitted to murdering another, and being an accessory to a third, all unprompted, and all in front of witnesses."

The dark-haired man tried to throw himself at the Assistant Director, but only succeeded in bruising his wrists in his fury. "These witnesses! I have a right to hear their statements! Where are they?"

A long, frustrated sigh escaped the bald man. "You will hear them where you are entitled to hear them: from your attorney, Krycek. Not now. You know this." He leaned over until his bared teeth were a fraction of an inch from the former operative's nose. "Now, be quiet."

"Or what, Skinner, you'll throw me out of the plane?"

A snort, then, shaking his head, the bespectacled Director walked away. His gaze fell on the entwined hands of Arthur Pendrell and Terry Phillips, seated side-by-side about mid-way up the short aisle. He found himself missing Sharon, so sent them a nod as he passed.

--o-0-o--

Pendrell wrapped an arm around his spouse. "You going to be okay with all this, Ter?"

She leaned into his embrace. "Yes. Not exactly what I expecting for our first case, but then, I guess I should get used to it." She rested her head on his shoulder. "Will Dana be okay? There was so much blood, more than I'm used to coming out of a living person."

He found himself unable to refrain from hugging her tightly. "Director Skinner made certain she was out of danger before we left. She has a long road to recovery, but, she's in good hands." He lifted her chin with his knuckle. "She'll be okay, hum?"

Terry nodded. "Okay. I'll be glad to be home, finally. Who would have thought we'd be crossing half the planet in a little over a month."

He smiled as she settled. "Yeah. Not like just working in a lab."

--o-0-o--

In the front of the plane, Bill Stickle was chewing his lower lip. "Director Skinner?"

The bald man shifted in his seat, then eyed him. "Yes, Agent Stickle?"

"What happens now?"

Skinner's dark brows drew together. "We take Krycek back and start assembling our case against him. Agents Mulder and Scully, ASAC Nichols, and Professor Rosen will be in the UK for at least a month, so we'll attend the legal side of the proceedings while they're away." He leaned toward the younger man. "You did well, Stickle. Your father would be proud of how you handled yourself on your first case, so put your mind at ease. You'll make a fine Agent." He settled back, hoping this reassurance was sufficient for the situation.

Stickle ran a hand through his blond curls. "Thank you, Sir. I'm relieved to hear you say that. I wish Dad were still here so I could discuss it with him."

The bespectacled director gazed out the window. "It's good you think so, Agent Stickle. Your father was a mentor to me, back in the day. He had his own quirks, but he was an honorable man, and was as fine an officer as I've worked with over the years."

A flash of a grin crossed the younger man's features. "Dad had quirks? He was also so stone-cold G-man at home. Always so Eliot Ness."

The older man's eyes lightened. "Let me tell you some stories, Stickle. It will help pass the time."

--o-0-o--

Royal Victoria Infirmary
Great North Trauma and Emergency Center
Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK
Monday, July 20, 1998
7:17 pm

Dana Scully took a deep breath. For the first time in days, she no longer felt cold, but she could hear an annoying beeping. She lay still, attempting to work out just how long she had been confined, before she remembered: attempting to flee, fighting with Krycek, Mulder arriving with SUV's and a helicopter, gasping for air. She heard the woop, woop, woop of helicopter blades, saw the dark, anxious face of her partner gazing down at her, his hands pressed against her chest, his hoarse tenor attempting to soothe them both, being in an operating room, debating with, someone. Then, this. She opened her eyes to check around her. The beeping was her heartbeat, strong and regular, jabbing spikes upward on traces, an IV bag suspended on her left. There was still a tube in her chest, which her clinician's mind found unsurprising, given the pneumothorax.

She tried lifting her right hand, but it pulled the muscles in her chest around sutures, so she let it drop. When she attempted to move her left, she felt warmth wrapping her palm, heard a body shifting. Mulder. "Hey." The hand moved up, grasping her shoulder, then sliding behind her neck, leaving the thumb free to trace her cheekbone. "Mulder?"

He was wearing a grin, but his eyes were deeply troubled. "I'm here, Scully."

She focused on his jaw. "You had a chance to shave?"

He nodded as he lifted his fingers to his chin. "Those two tyrants we trained wouldn't hear otherwise. They fed me and made me sleep. In a bed." He smiled softly.

She clucked, then rocked her head from side to side on the pillows. "No raises for them this year." She reached up to wrap her fingers around his palm, but winced. The flexing shifted the IV needle, so she dropped her hand to the sheets. "Where's Krycek?"

He leaned back, adjusting his seat until he could grasp her arm, Roman-style. "In the hoosegow. Skinner flew him back there, with Pendrell, Phillips, and Stickle. There's a preliminary hearing in a couple of weeks, which we may or may not make."

She smiled gently down at him, then sobered. "Mulder, we need to talk."

He leaned forward to resume rubbing her cheek with his thumb. "When you're better, Scully."

She shook her head. "No. Now while we have the time."

Both dark eyebrows arched as he settled back. "Okay. What's on your mind?"

She rotated her wrist to clutch the arm lying under hers at the elbow. "First, thank you, Mulder. Thank you for not giving up. After that first day, when I heard them saying that someone was coming, I knew it had to be you."

His face reddened as he blinked rapidly several times. "Give up, Scully? On you? Never. You should know that by now." He bent forward. "What else?"

She tried sitting up, but fell back on the pillows. "Second, whatever the Forty want from me, they can get it by coming to us at X-Files East, like any other organization would. I'm an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, not their dal Riata, whatever that means. I think they have resources we can't pass up, but, it's on our terms, not theirs." She shook the arm under hers. "Okay?"

He opened his mouth, but said nothing.

"Mulder?"

The hazel cleared, then his lips began twitching. "So, I'm not your Atrebates, your Sam Gamgee, following you to Mount Doom, bringing you Lembas in bed, fixing you tater and coney stew?"

"Back before anyone could possibly have known about potatoes in England?"

They both burst out laughing.

She could see his eyes were dancing. "How many times did you read Rings, anyway? I've lost count over the years."

He let out a final bark. "Just once, but I enjoyed them too much to read them again. I wonder if they'll ever try to make movies out of those books."

One cheek quirked. "Besides Ralph Bakshi? They'll never be as good, but, then, they never are." She started coughing. "Sorry. Can't get too silly just yet."

"Third?"

"Third, I think we need to-"

"Scully? Mulder?" Nichols's gravel floated in from the hall. "There's a problem out at Tyrgleipnir and the other two estates where you were held."

She tried pushing herself upright again, but her partner was there, using the controls to raise the head end of the bed.

"What's going on?" Mulder rested a protective hand on her left shoulder.

The older man chewed his mustache for a moment. "There were fires at all three, last night. No one can locate the Suebi, or the man who was his chief servant for thirty odd years, Frijdolf. The people who were involved in your initiation have all gone to ground, so the Yard wants to send someone to interview you, Scully. You're their only witness."

She nodded. "Okay. I'll try to offer what help I can, but, there wasn't much I saw. When do they want to do this?"

The balding Montanan sighed. "Now that you're awake, they're not going to want to wait. Do you feel up to this, or, should I try to hold them off for a day or so?"

"Give us a day." The dark-haired agent frowned.

She shook her head. "Mulder, they may lose clues, or-"

He growled, then bent close to her face. "Scully, you've got tubes in your chest, thanks to that old man falling prey to Krycek's machinations."

She held herself rigid. "He deserves justice, just like anyone else. Besides, if we don't help them, they'll just extradite Krycek for his testimony, and *he* needs to never leave the country again. Mulder, you *know* this."

He bent over her, nose to nose, the hazel boring into her gaze, until his shoulders sagged. "One hour. They get one hour. Then, you go back to getting well, Scully. That's all it makes any sense to agree to, at least for the next few days."

A few coughs shook out of her. "Okay, but, Mulder, if they need you, don't - "

"Go anywhere," Nichols finished. "Ros and I can do the legwork, Scully. With three Shadow governments on our backs, you don't get left alone anymore. No one does, East or West."

The tall agent turned to grin at the older man before gazing down at her again. "See, Scully, we did train them right."

--o-0-o--

Royal Victoria Infirmary
Great North Trauma and Emergency Center
Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK
Tuesday, July 21, 1998
8:51 am

Dana Scully smiled at the hand tightly grasping her palm. "Mulder, I may need that back someday." Her partner had been bending over her as she had been awakened by the light streaming in through the windows of the regular hospital room she had been moved into a few hours earlier. She knew, from his comments, that they were on a short hallway off the main corridor, where the other three rooms were empty. {Just as well for any occupying patients, with all the traipsing in and out of law enforcement officials that was bound to take place.} A white recliner had been waiting by her bedside, which she suspected Rosen or Nichols had arranged. After the nurse had left, he had wrapped her shoulders in one of the extra blankets, then settled in gratefully himself.

He smirked. "We'll see what we can exchange for it that is of equal worth, Doctor." Sobering, he adjusted the thin cover over her knees as he straightened. "Are you sure you're up to this?"

She nodded. "It's almost like we're working a case, and that helps keep my mind off of, well, everything else."

The hazel soft and sad, he was bending over her again. "Scully, I'm here, when you want to talk about it, for as long as you need."

Her arm now free of the IV, she reached up to cup his rough cheek. "Thanks. I'll hold you to that, not now, but when things calm down, and more importantly, slow down."

{I hope you do. You'll need to, partner.} "And when will that be?" He settled back with a snort as they heard voices ringing down the tiled hall, but before their visitors arrived he twisted the blanket closed around her shoulders and neck.

"Doctor Scully?" The Inspector had warm, honey-colored skin, with thick straight black hair over deep, intelligent brown eyes. "I'm Rajesh Emani." He extended his right hand, nodding as she returned the grasp with her left. "My apologies for this happening on your first visit to the UK."

She sent him a quiet smile. "I'd much rather have been strolling the British Museum, Inspector, but I may be here a while, so, we shall see." She glanced over at her partner, who was reaching across her.

The Inspector gripped his palm. "You're Agent Mulder?"

"Yeah. We're partners at the Bureau." Settling on the edge of the recliner, he kept his fingers curled as they rested against her arm.

The Inspector flipped open his notepad. "Bad business, this. Professor Rhys-Jones had a distinguished career as a horticulturalist before his retirement. His extensive greenhouses of exotic medicinal species were at a different location, so were spared, but, the three estates that were lost contained many unique historical documents and records." He turned over a page. "The most important materials were at Fenleyding, where you were held first, Agent Scully."

She shifted slightly. "I'm very sorry to hear that, Inspector. I'm afraid I saw little of the interior of that residence. I don't remember smelling gas or anything that might have been an accelerant. Are there no clues to his disappearance?"

Emani shook his head. "The staff who normally work at the homes were told, by someone claiming to be Rhys-Jones, not to come in for the times you were at each. There were reports of figures in grey hoods and robes, but they appeared to always keep their faces covered."

She frowned. "There were three who didn't: an older woman, short, about 40 pounds overweight, grey hair, a tall woman with grey hair and glasses, about 30 pounds underweight, and a man with a grey mustache, also short and overweight. None had distinguishing marks, or, as I should say properly, all may have been in disguise or theatrical make-up."

"But, you could work with a sketch artist?"

She nodded. "I could. You have had no sightings of Professor Rhys-Jones?"

Mulder tapped her arm with his index finger. "Scully, it's his case, not ours. He gets to ask the questions this go-round."

The three found themselves chuckling softly with each other.

"You two are quite used to be on my side of the interrogation, I gather." The Inspector capped his pen. "But, to answer your question, no, we haven't. We have the airports and dockyards on full alert, but, he may be being kept in hiding inside the UK. We're combing the area around Tyrgleipnir, looking for anyplace he may be concealed. We're treating this as a missing persons case, for now." He closed the pad. "I'll send that sketch artist this afternoon?"

She extended her hand again. "I'll be here."

He shook it carefully. "I'm sure you will. My best for a speedy recovery, Agent Scully." The Inspector nodded to the tall man over their clasp. "I know the way, Agent Mulder."

Once they were alone, the dark-haired man regarded his partner solemnly. "Scully, there *is* something we need to discuss, something I don't understand."

The darkness in his gaze had her sliding her palm over the blankets to rest on his extended fingers. "What is it, Mulder?"

He enclosed her hand between both of his. "You knew the Pict and the Suebi, without being introduced. Can you explain that to me?" Given where she was and what had happened to his partner, he kept his tones as soft and gentle as he could.

Her forehead wrinkled. "I really can't, Mulder. With Mister ap Gwinn, his Welsh descent was obvious from his name and his Pendragon, so Cymru sprang to my mind almost immediately. There wasn't anything specific that said 'Highland Scots' or 'Anglo-German' on the other two. But, I've met so many different people moving around with my family growing up, it may be some barely remembered symbol that's triggering an insight. I can't say for sure." She bit her lip, thinking of all the times he had chastised her for not considering extreme possibilities. "The names were just there. I wish I could give you the clues that registered in my mind, but, I can't." She rubbed the backs of his fingers with her thumb. "I didn't recognize Christina Knox's identity, nor did you, Mulder, when we were on Santorini or in Africa. There must have been some event that triggered all this." She cocked her head, trying to lighten his sober gaze. "We'll just add another folder to the X-Files, right?"

He shook his head. "Scully, I understand you're trying to be dispassionate about all of this, and I respect that." He studied their entwined fingers for a few moments. "More than that, I need it, and, our work requires it." He bent close to her ear. " But sometimes, you need to search, too. You did that, as we were working through the trials. You were speaking to yourself in your dreams. This may be something similar."

She tilted her head. "Mulder, are you saying you think I really am this Riata of theirs?"

They were sliding back into their comfortable roles, so he huffed slightly at her. "You don't know your ancestry, because, like me and a lot of other Americans, we're all mutts. But I could believe there was a Boudicca in your past." He sent her a broad grin. "Not too far back, either, Britomart."

She smiled back, then her gaze fell on his crinkled forehead. "Mulder, if I am the Riata, then you are my Atrebates, my Mervyn Bunter, my Sam Gamgee, and, no matter how many times you pretend to salute sharply and say, 'Yes, Ma'am!,' I just don't see that staying true for more than thirty seconds."

He waggled his eyebrows. "Yeah. Well, it's just the start of a theory."

She eyed him teasingly. "That needs a lot more supporting evidence before we begin to consider it. Until then, you're just an omniscient genius, and I'm just a G-woman." She looked down at her chest. "With extra tubes and ventilation."

"Agent Mulder, Doctor Scully?" Ap Gwinn was standing in the doorway. "May I speak with you both?" At their nods, he padded into the room, smiling his approval as Mulder refused to relinquish his partner's fingers. "What did the Inspector ask you?"

The agents exchanged a glance before she replied for them both. "Whether I could work with a sketch artist to provide identification on the three whose faces were exposed."

The Cymru's red curls bobbed. "They are not part of the Ekklesia. The Tribuno must have brought them in from the outside, which is a violation of all our procedures. The Fellowship takes care of its own." He sank onto the foot of the bed. "You understand that, Riata."

She shook her head. "I'm not - "

Ap Gwinn held up both hands. "No, you're not, as least not yet." His gaze focused on Mulder, then back on her. "You should both be fully aware of what it being asked of you before you decide your next course of action." He began pacing. "Should you choose to walk away, there would be no rancor, no retaliation. Especially after the travesty perpetrated upon you by that vengeful man." With a sigh, he leaned against the wall. "We would have to seek another." He smiled gently at their joined fingers. "Two others. We were all so excited to be able to bring in an American Sister, and another American Atrebates-Brother. We had become too insular, too bound to the past, for our survival."

Mulder rose to walk over to the red-haired man. "But, my father, Marshal Tapping, they were both part of your organization, were they not?" He grasped the Cymru's right hand, turning it over to check the wrist. "You don't have a tattoo?"

Ap Gwinn stared over, astonishment written on his features. "What do you mean? Tattoo?"

Scully attempted to straighten in the bed, but fell back after a wince. "Both Mulder's father and Marshal Tapping had a rising sun symbol tattooed on their wrists, where Agent Mulder was checking. We took that to be a symbol of your society. Was it not?"

The red-haired man looked from one to the other. "Perhaps this was something each chose to do, but we have no requirement of such. The Fellowship only speaks of itself with itself. The close protection we take of our existence is what has let us survive for so long. The ex-Tribuno will have no qualms about exposing us if it will benefit himself in the slightest. That was obvious from the first, and why he was rejected by the members for any significant office. We must prepare for that eventuality."

"No, Cymru, we must save Suebi."

Both men started, then focused on the woman in the bed as they returned to it.

She looked at ap Gwinn, who was standing on her right. "He is still alive." She shifted to face Mulder, at her left. "If they have him, they will try to make him tell them what he knows, either through coercion or through medication. So, we have some time."

The dark-haired man was nodding his assent.

Ap Gwinn grasped her shoulder. "I must accept that you are right, Sister. How shall we find him?"

She gestured toward the end of the bed. "Tell us about this Frijdolf."

The red-haired man settled by her feet. "He came into the service of the Suebi 35 years ago. He was a surprise to us all, as the Tribuno was. But, Suebi said he had many uses, and we accepted that. You see-" He licked his lips as he met both their gazes in turn. "-these organizations you two hunt, who had enslaved your Father, Atrebates, they were known to Suebi. He tracked them assiduously. I suspect he was using Frijdolf as a double agent, inside their organizations, but for him as well."

Mulder rose. "So, you know they took my sister?"

The Cymru shook his head. "We knew their actions in aggregate, not in specific. We are very few, and there are many evils we watch, many factions that will ruthlessly inflict harm to keep their power. We attempt to collect enough evidence to expose them as the opportunity presents itself." He shifted closer to the head of the bed. "You, Riata, and-" He looked up at Mulder. "-you, Atrebates, are providing that opportunity through your excellent investigations and full disclosures. We will offer any assistance you request. It is yours merely if you ask."

"But, we would have to come inside, wouldn't we?" Scully's query was offered without inflection.

Ap Gwinn regarded them both solemnly. "If you so wish. Then we can lift the chalk banner on your seat. The bonds we choose are the strongest, not the ones forced on us. It was wrong to consider any approach other than persuasion. I have ridden the currents of time with Brother Aborigine and Brother Pict, so I have seen it. Now, we in the Ekklesia have all seen, and we all know. You are as you were gifted to be." He reached for Scully's hand, but only rested his fingers flat on hers. "Whether we are able to lift the chalk banner, whether you assume your high seat, you will do as the Riata would do. It is your nature, Sister. You seek justice for all, the greatest and the least; you can do no other."

The dark-haired agent crossed his arms. "Don't lie to us. My Father hid himself from you, even in death, staging two funerals to keep his mortal remains out of your grasp."

After rising to walk around the bed, ap Gwinn stopped in front of Mulder. "Atrebates, cease to fear for him. He resides in an honored place, with all of us who are no longer visible. You passed him in the Suola, on the Wall of Memory. Also understand, there is much your Father hid from us as well. We could see the darkness in him, but, unlike the Tribuno, he was devoted to the Slav and loyal to his office. He walked beside her, and through her, us. That is all we dare ask of each other, and those who stand with us against the Darkness." He turned to leave. "Now, I must go. You two must return to your life outside. Your work is vital, more than either of you know, and more than either can do alone. We have much to discuss among the Fellowship. Anything we can learn of the Suebi or his Frijdolf will be passed on to you." He held out a card, a bronze sun with forty wavy rays in the upper right corner. "Please, if you need me, this is my personal cellular phone. Call me at any time, for any reason." He slipped out the door as the tall agent tucked the card in his wallet.

Resting both fists on the blankets, Mulder bent over his partner. "What are you doing, Scully?"

She looked up at him. "Trying to find Professor Rhys-Jones, Mulder, before he is killed. I have no intention of lifting any chalk banner, but they may help us. I told you, back when Deep Throat was alive-" She paused as she grasped his wrist. "-that you were the only one I trusted. That remains true, even if there are others in the Bureau who can be relied upon."

He held her gaze for a significant moment, then dropped his eyes to the blankets before releasing a long breath, but found he could not reply, just whisper her name.

She twisted, coughed once, then reached for the elevation controls. "You brought the laptop?"

Grateful for the anchor her reason provided, he lifted the Dell from beside the recliner, then settled it, open, on her blanketed legs. "I thought you might want to take a look at this, so, here it is, all charged up." He attached the power cord to a converter, then a wall outlet. After waggling a network cable happily, there were two clicks as it was set in place. "I finagled an account and password from the night nurse, just for us: victoria, all lower case, and, 01tyne, also all lower case."

She tapped in the information. "That worked." Her cheek creased. "See, your manly charms haven't wasted away completely, partner."

He shuffled happily. "You only say that because you don't know what I had to promise. To *him*." Frowning and chewing his lip, he resumed pacing at the foot of the bed. "I need to think for a bit, Scully." Balancing his foot on the recliner, he unstrapped the revolver from his ankle holster to place it by her left hand. "I'm not leaving the hospital grounds, but, we never did find your weapon at the Embassy, so use this if you have to defend yourself. You sent me your left-handed qualifying scores when you were getting recertified on your weapon, so I pity anyone who walks in on you unannounced. We'll get a replacement for yours when we're back in the States."

She tucked her chin. "Let me know when it's you, Mulder, I wouldn't want to shoot you again."

"Sheah." He sent her a lop-sided grin as he stepped through the doorway. "That bed's not big enough, even for two friendly people."

--o-0-o--

End – Chermera – Part 40 of 45

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