"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 26 of 45

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Sep 9, 2020, 4:15:22 PM9/9/20
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"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 26 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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Northern Division
San Diego Police Department
San Diego, CA
Friday, June 19, 1998
3:04 pm

Phil Nichols waved the partners and Skinner to the front of the room to have them take seats with Donato and Gonzales. With the Marshals absent, there was more space for the groups of officers and agents to gather. His plan to forge bonds between the SDPD and the Bureau was working, he could tell. Men and women who had been strangers just 24 hours ago were sitting side-by-side, swapping pictures of their families. But, now, he needed to set them on the tasks they were there to perform. "If we could get started!" He had used his loudest, scratchiest voice. But, it barely made a dent in the chatter.

"People! Front and Center!" The boom out of the slender African American snapped all heads around to face him. He lifted a stack of identical schedules off the lectern to begin passing them around. "We've assigned mixed groups of agents and officers to track the different threads of Franklin's life: the colleagues she kept in touch with, her neighbors, the senior center she frequented. We need to get a sense of how this woman sold herself to others, so we will know how to fill in the holes in her past. We are looking for anything that ties her either to the East Coast or to Japan. Anything, no matter how mundane or trivial, may be the break we need. We know our suspect passed himself off as her son; let's find out how far the pair of them pushed this." He held up the page. "Be polite. These aren't criminals we're interviewing. These are just ordinary citizens. Read the assignments through, get yourselves in your groups. We'll be switching off around ten tonight. I'll take questions in a few minutes."

Nichols turned to his fellow X-Files agents. "Chief, Scully, I hate to hit your jet-lag even harder, but you'll be coming back on for the ten pm shift."

The auburn-haired pathologist rose. "We'll be here, Nichols."

Mulder turned to Donato and Gonzales. "We'll see you then, Detectives." The four shook hands, then parted for the afternoon.

--o-0-o--

Fluid Dynamics Lab
Scripps Institute of Oceanography
La Jolla, CA
Friday, 7:03 pm

Fox Mulder was standing at the open door to the wind facility, unable to move. His sister was there, working away diligently. He could see, underneath the tunnel, her feet appear and disappear as she climbed in and out, hear her speaking to her graduate student, but he remained rooted in place. He knew his partner was waiting patiently at his side, her small palm on his back, pushing him.

"Long breaths, Mulder. Relax." She started rubbing in circles, which normally would have soothed him, but, instead, he felt like he was about to jump out of his skin. Finally, her hand shifted away. "Mulder, I have the car keys. I'm going in. Follow me when you're ready."

He bit his lip, then fell in line behind her. {I'm going to see my sister.} He tried rotating his shoulders to relax as he walked, but he kept feeling like his head was about to float off his body. (My sister is here.) Then, they were turning around the far end of the tunnel, so he could see the table with her equipment, the coiled cables, as well as the small turbaned man beside it all, who looked over his shoulder at their approach.

"Doctor Miller? The agents you mentioned to me are here." He voice was so soft there was no motion from the feet in the black sneakers protruding through the side of the tunnel.

Without any sensation of the passage, Mulder was standing in front of the opening, studying the long legs he could just make out in the light from the control room. A hand extended through the opening.

"Anwar, pass me a number one Phillips, if you would, please."

The tapered fingers were so much like his own, slighter perhaps, that Mulder could almost convince himself he was looking in a mirror. Again, without conscious awareness, he reached out, clasping the palm in his right hand, then pressing his left on top of it.

"Ah!" Sandra was twisting to see who was there, but didn't crouch enough to miss the edge of the opening. Both hands flew to her forehead as she looked up. "Fox? Is that you? Humpf!" She was upright now, a pair of long arms wrapped around her. The man holding her was shaking, whispering her name. "Fox?" She rested her head on his shoulder, then drew in a breath. He smelled like her brother, she realized, his clean, comforting scent mixed with perfumed hotel soap and slightly acrid aftershave. The chin and neck were rough against her cheek, not smooth, but there was no difference in the sense of security that settled over her. "Fox." The word emerged as breath. She closed her arms around his back, hugging him as tightly as she could. "Fox." There was wetness on her ear; she could feel him shaking as he sobbed.

"Sammie." He was surprised he managed to stammer her name. "Sammie. I can reach you."

There was a gasp from the woman standing beside them, bringing them both out of the tiny circle of two in their minds. "Dana?" Sandra asked. A quick glance told her the Pakistani's mouth had formed into a tiny oval, so she hastened to explain. "Anwar, this is my biological brother, Fox William Mulder. He works with the FBI." His hands were still on her waist, so she stepped back again, wrapping her fingers around his extended left palm as she nodded at the copper-haired agent. "This is his partner at the Bureau, Doctor Dana Scully. She's a pathologist with a degree in physics."

The diminutive agent shook hands with the graduate student. "Our apologies for the intrusion. We had thought you would have been finished with the set-up so Doctor Miller could review a few documents we have brought along." She tapped the strap of the laptop case.

His eyes slightly unfocused at this turn of events, Anwar looked desperately to his adviser for guidance, then at Mulder, whose gaze never left his sister's face. "Doctor Miller, this is a wonderful day. I am privileged to share it with you. Should I call the others to celebrate?"

Scully patted the slight arm. "We should step into the control room, don't you think?"

Then, Mulder was alone with his sister. "You are so tall. Like me." He bit his lip. "Sorry."

She eyed him. "For what? Fox, we both grew up. It was bound to happen, you know." Holding the rough cheek, she smiled, before finding herself giggling unexpectedly.

The dark-haired agent let out a choked sound as a pensive grin stretched his features. "Yeah. It was." His forehead wrinkled. "I should say something more insightful than that."

She grasped his face in both hands, then tipped his head forward to plant a single kiss on his hairline. "Why? You know the three laws of robotics. What more do you need? "

He was laughing outright now, picking her up with the arms he entwined tightly around her waist again. "You remembered!"

She stepped back. "You explained them so carefully to me. Too bad there are no real robots yet to try them on, you know?"

Thinking of Doctor Ivanov, he grinned. "I wouldn't say that."

She cocked her head at him. "Where did Dana go?"

Mulder checked around, finally spotting his partner sitting alone behind a short table inside the glassed-in room. "Scully!" His bellow snapped her head up to focus on him. Taking Sandra's hand, he walked into the control space. "Scully, this is my sister." He nodded, still grinning.

She exchanged tiny smiles with the professor, then, as her gaze met his gleaming eyes, she issued the gentlest of rebukes. "We've met." She pushed castered chairs toward them both with her feet. "Mulder, sit down before you fall over. Sandra, thank you for your time. We didn't mean to interrupt your work."

When they were settled, the chestnut-haired woman glanced at her brother's profile. "It's alright, Dana. We were on the verge of calling it quits anyway, since we will need a few more hours before we're ready to start taking those data I mentioned." She checked around the room. "Where's Anwar?"

Scully pointed toward the exit. "I don't think he'll be back tonight."

Sandra nodded. "Okay." She grasped Mulder's palm tightly. "Fox, I have to know. Those videos that old man showed me, are they fakes?"

"No. They're not." The joy fell from his eyes. "Sorry. I wish I could tell you they were. I'm sorry."

Sandra pulled his hand onto her lap. "Were you ill? Drugged?"

His shoulders slumped. "No."

"Why, Fox, why?"

Scully walked around the table to take a stand in front of her. "Whatever you saw isn't the man I have known and respected for six years, Sandra. Your brother has been there for me whenever I have needed him, helping me when I have been ill or injured. He's been my ally when I have been attacked for being a woman in a man's profession. That old man is a murderer and a liar."

Dropping the long fingers, Sandra rose. "So, he has no connection to Fox and me?"

The auburn-haired agent moved to stand by her partner. "It's not as he made it out to be to you." She placed a gentle hand on a slumped shoulder. "That man has been twisting your natal family, the Mulders, to serve his ends, even before you two were born. He is a murderer and the slickest of monsters." She could feel his back straightening. "Part of why we wanted to speak with you was to give you the knowledge you need to see the lies in what he insinuated. This man was an operative for a clandestine group that came into being at the end of the Second World War. He knows how to spew propaganda, which is what he's doing with you, Sandra. Mulder and I have worked most of our partnership to expose this Shadow government. The collective evidence on my laptop has allowed us to begin to do that. We have insider information that this old man has taken over the organization in this country. Do not underestimate him. We certainly don't. He has ordered the deaths of countless innocents, put others through endless torture."

"Including you, Scully." Mulder's hazel gaze was fixed on his partner now.

She sent him what courage she could with her green-blue eyes before turning back to Sandra. "For reasons we haven't fully discovered, they are afraid of you and Mulder making a lasting, meaningful connection. It may help us if you tell us of your memories of your time with the Mulders."

Sandra twisted her curls around her palm, then flipped them free. "There aren't many. A black Lab. Walking to school." Her too-heavy eyebrows drew together. "Not wanting Fox to open the door." She was whispering. "They're out there. Don't let them in."

After glancing up at his partner, Mulder reached out to grasp both his sister's hands. "That was when they took you, Sammie. I couldn't stop them. I tried to get Dad's gun, but I couldn't stop them. I remembered it for years as aliens, but that wasn't what it was. I made it that. To make it make some sense." He fell to his knees in front of her, sobbing. "Sammie, please, forgive me, please. I couldn't stop them. There were too many."

Coming back to the present, Sandra blinked at him. "But were those videos lies?"

He was shaking. "No. Those men. They were hurting people. They hurt -"

"Me." Dana Scully went rigid. "Duane Barry was a former FBI agent who had been suffered severe brain trauma, but recovered. He had taken several people hostage, and Mulder was brought on to try to talk him out. When that failed, the assault team went in. Barry was injured, but broke out of the hospital and attacked me in my own home. We fought, then he knocked me unconscious. When I came to, I was tied up and gagged in the trunk of his car. He drove me to Skyland Mountain and handed me over to kidnappers. Mulder tried to get to me, but - "

The tall agent found his feet. "I couldn't reach Scully in time. She was gone for three months. Benner was trying to poison Scully in Athens Hospital. He worked for the same group, we think."

The diminutive agent took a step toward Sandra. "This time, I fought him off. After Barry, I never wanted to be that helpless again."

The chestnut-haired professor shoved the chair away before backing against the glass. "I don't know who you people are. I've never heard or experienced anything like this." The hazel gaze was steel. "But, I've never seen anyone treated the way you treated those two men, Fox. There is right and there is wrong." She moved forward until she was nose-to-nose with her brother. "I'll ask you one last time, are the videos a lie?"

He took a step away from her. "No."

She pointed at the door. "Then please, leave. I don't know if I will ever want to speak to you again after what you did."

He began shaking and gasping. "Sammie, no!"

She just glared at him. "Fox, I don't know how you went from being my crazy, sweet brother to what I saw on the videos, and I don't want to know. If that is what fighting this group has turned you into, you've become just as much of a monster as you tell me they are."

He was staggering now, but Sandra turned to the diminutive agent. "Dana, I know you say he's not like that, but, think. Has he ever been violent with you?"

Scully, remembering a time of anger, horror, and cold in his apartment, stepped between brother and sister. "Once, Sandra, once only, in a moment of extreme fatigue. Never otherwise. He is my partner. I trust him with my life."

The professor shook her head. "Your trust may be misplaced, Dana. Please, I need some time to work through all this." She held up both hands. "Please."

Scully tucked the laptop strap over her shoulder, then took her partner's elbow. "Sandra, you're making a giant mistake, here. Do not trust that old man, or anything he says, ever. Do you hear me?" Her voice was stern, but soft.

She turned her back to them. "I do. I won't. But, I'm not sure whom I *can* trust. Please, go."

--o-0-o--

End – Chermera – Dance of the Dead

End – Chermera – Part 26 of 45
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