"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 33 of 45

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Mary Keller

Sep 9, 2020, 4:32:24 PM9/9/20
"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 33 of 45
E-mail: mrke...@eclipse.net, mrkel...@gmail.com
PG-13 X-File: Myth-arc Disclaimed in Part I
Already sent to Gossamer

Chapter VII – Once Upon A Time


The Butler enters, pushing a cart with breakfast on it. He presses a button that rolls back the curtains over the display screen, elevates a round table and Number Two's chair, in which Rover is sitting. After setting the tray on that table, the Butler elevates an empty chair, rings a hand bell, then raises the platform on which Number Two stands. Number Two walks over to his chair and stares at Rover, then turns to the Butler.

Number Two: Wait! (tastes the food) Remove it! (paces and stares back at Rover) I told you to remove it!

The Butler puts the breakfast back on the cart.

Number Two: (speaking into the orange phone) Remove that thing, too. (points at Rover in the chair) I'm not an inmate! Say what you like. You brought me back here! I've told you the last time you're using the wrong approach. I do it my way or you find somebody else. (looks over at the Butler) Leave the coffee. (puts the orange phone back on the desk) The coffee, leave it!

The Butler puts the coffee back on the table.

Number Two: (speaking into the orange phone again) How many times do I have to ask? (the chair with Rover descends and the Butler leaves with breakfast on the cart)

Number Two sets the screen to show The Prisoner having breakfast in his cottage. Number Six is eating and pacing in his front room.

Number Two (to The Prisoner's image on the screen): Why do you care. Why do you care? You're even relaxed. Why do you care? (Number Two walks back and picks up the yellow phone) Number Six please.

The Prisoner: (walks over to answer the beeping phone) Why do you care? I know your voice.

Number Two: I've been here before. Why do you care?

The Prisoner: You'll never know.

The Prisoner hangs up the phone, leaves the cottage, claps his hands twice as the door closes.

Number Two: (to the screen) Wait and See.

The Prisoner meets another inmate and demands to know his number, rattling off numbers from one on up as the other inmate becomes increasingly agitated and tells him not to inquire.

Number Two flips through The Prisoner's progress report as various scenes of The Prisoner's attempts at escape play on the screen.

Recording of The Prisoner: I intend to escape and come back, wipe this place off the face of the earth, incinerate it, and you with it.

(more scenes: destroys a speaker, holds up a Tally Ho)

Is this what they did to you? Is this how they started to break you before you gave them what they were after?

(more scenes: runs from Rover)

I've resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered.

Number Two: (puts down the progress report, picks up the orange phone)

Recording of The Prisoner: I want to call a witness. A character witness.

Number Two: Degree Absolute. I require approval.

Recording of The Prisoner: Unlike me, many of you have accepted the situation of your imprisonment and will die here like rotten cabbages.

Number Two: If you think he's that important there's certainly no other alternative! You must risk either one of us!

Recording of The Prisoner: Who's standing beside you now? I intend to discover who are the prisoners and who the warders.

Number Two: I am a good man. I *was* a good man. But, if you get him, he will be better and there is no other way. I repeat no other way!

Recording of The Prisoner: I will not make any deals with you. I've resigned.

Number Two: Degree absolute and tonight, please.

Recording of The Prisoner: I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered.

Number Two: A week? That's not long enough. You don't want to damage him.

Recording of The Prisoner: My life is my own.

Number Two: Very well. Tonight!

Once Upon A Time


Over the Midwest
Delta Flight 1344
Sunday, June 21, 1998
10:31 am

Fox Mulder twisted against the lap belt, then opened his eyes. He and his partner had the three-seat row to themselves, so Scully had claimed the middle, while he had taken the aisle. They had both drifted into sleep shortly after take-off, but not before she had spent a half an hour studying the genetic maps in the back of the Cavalli-Sforza. He had watched her sifting through the thick pages, comparing blood type distributions, then adding further comments to a numbered list in one of her spiral-bound notebooks, but he felt no need to disrupt her studies with a joke or tease. The knowledge she was acquiring for herself might come in handy on a case in the not-too-distant future. But, shortly after the food service carts had ceased trundling up and down the narrow aisle, she had flipped the lined sheets and the black-jacketed tome closed, rested the short stack on the padding of the free window seat, then closed her eyes. She turned to move her back away from the stiff cushions before she settled in, her forehead bumping his shoulder occasionally as she passed with an occasional sigh into a light sleep.

He had expected to be up reviewing the events of the previous few days, turning them over in his mind until he saw the pattern that would pull their investigations into a single thread. But her deep, regular inhalations after the endlessly long stretches of the intertwined case shifts had set him nodding as well. Now, as he focused into consciousness, he realized she had turned toward him to keep her spine clear of the seat, which left her piled next to his arm. He gazed down at the auburn crown, which was all he could see of her face. Having her this close-by was comforting, not only because it put his mind at ease for her personal safety.

He had hoped to check her expression while she was sleeping, as this was as near as he would get to a true reading of her physical condition. She had been grunting softly as they had walked along in the airport, which might have meant she was in genuine pain. That worried him. Were her medications not successfully keeping the debility from her body's recent transition through 'The Change' at bay? If he asked, would she, being her dedicated self, attempt to hide or downplay any physical weakness? Or, were the bruising and tearing from the assault in the parking lot finally exhibiting their toll, now that the need for her professional mask was lifted? {Two, G-man, one theirs and one yours. They're not the reason she can't rest comfortably on her back, are they?} He bit his lower lip as he released a shaky breath, during a final effort to lean forward to see her face.

She was beginning to force herself awake as well, attempting to reach up with her left hand to rub her eyes. "Ooh." She twisted until she was upright.

"Hey." For a few moments, he rubbed the slight digits sticking out of the gauze and sling that had been chilled in the wind of the air conditioning. "You cold?"

She focused on him blearily. "Not really. Just more tired than I thought." She checked to her left before offering a teasing comment as reassurance. "Good, they're still there. They didn't drop through the flotation device and into the cargo compartment."

Now that he understood it was just fatigue, he found himself unable to resist returning a fidgeting jest. "Sheah, Scully, the plane dipped to the left when you put them down. Pilot made an announcement." All innocent sincerity, he arched his dark brows as he nodded.

"Mul-derrr." She quirked one cheek. "You look like you've been thinking."

He chuckled. "Yeah, a little bit. One of the lecturers I had at Oxford left a message on my cell phone. He's coming to DC to give a Smithsonian talk and wanted to get in touch."

She was scrubbing her face with her right hand. "Oh? What is he an expert on? History or psychology?"

He shifted to bend into her face. "Neither." Thoroughly enjoying the irritation flashing in her green-blue eyes, his lips quirked.

She cocked her head as she moved out of his gaze. "Mulder, no. Not UFOlogy."

He blinked delightedly. "You mean, I didn't tell you he wants to offer me a position?" At her silent derisive snort, he shook his head. "No, his choice of odd-ball knowledge is far more terrestrial. He's made a study of secret societies in Europe over the past 500 years."

That brought her attention to his face fully. "You think he might know something about the Forty?"

He nodded. "I'm sure of it. I'd like for us to get together with him and our documents this next week, see if they make sense to him." He looked up at the flight attendant, coffee-pot in her hand, hovering over them. "Yes, please, I think-" He glanced over at his partner. "-we'd like two, one with lots of sugar, and one with just cream." Once the blue-suited woman had moved to the row behind them, he took a sip. "I'd like to read through the decoded sections of the documents again. How's the battery?"

Her forehead crinkled. "It should be okay for the rest of this flight, but we'll need to recharge it during the layover in Minneapolis, if we have time and can find an outlet."

He finished his coffee, took her backpack down from the overhead, then set about reading, She, with the Cavalli-Sforza opened over the drop-down tray, returned to the maps and charts.


Apartment 5
Alexandria, VA
Sunday, 7:41 pm

The scrape of the metal door on the dumpster rail, loud enough to drown out the rumble of the apartment building's air handlers, had Fox Mulder cringing slightly. He had just deposited the salad and soup containers from their Panera take-out not in the kitchen rubbish bin of Scully's tidy apartment. His actions were a preventative in case they would have to leave precipitately to follow up one of the many leads their investigations had uncovered on the east or west coasts. As he turned to head back around the low brick building to the front steps, a black Yukon Denali rolled up, the unseen driver positioning it so it straddled the white line separating two parking spaces. He grunted at the discourtesy before he spotted a familiar face peering out the front passenger window. A broad grin began spreading across his features at Margaret Scully's loose brown hair brushing her shoulders. But the expression, as well as a little wave, both fell away at the shake of her head and her sober gaze.

Backing into the shadows, he extracted his cell phone from his jeans pocket, tapping the first speed dial button before the unit reached his ear. At the sound of running water, he frowned. "Scully? You still decent in there?"

This sounds serious. She stepped away from the faucets. "Let me get dressed. Where are we going?" At the silence, she turned off the water altogether. "Mulder?"

His first response was a grunt. "Mrs. Scully and your brothers are here, in what looks like a rental. How did they know you were back?" The repeated slamming of three elevated doors sent him slipping further into the dark.

"I never told them I left. This must be a surprise visit. Ow." She had transferred the phone to her left hand so she could struggle into a pair of khakis.

{Surprise attack is more like it.} He bit his lip for a moment. "Okay, they're headed through the front door. Your Mom doesn't look very happy about all this. Should I?"

Now, it was her turn to grunt. "No, I'm sorry, Mulder, but I think I know what Bill and Charlie have probably cooked up. I'll give you a call when it's over, okay?"


Dark Apartment
Washington, DC
Sunday, 7:53 pm

The recliner rotated at the knock on the door. Releasing a sigh, the old spy muted the volume on "The Guns of Navarone" before he rose to check his visitor. As the short dark hair bobbed outside, a broad grimace spread over his face. "Amanda!" He pulled the barrier aside. "My Dear. Come in."

'Ace' sniffed carefully before she entered. "You're not smoking as much."

He held out his arm. "All due to your wise influence. I am afraid I don't have much to offer in the way of refreshments for one such as yourself?" He poked his head beyond the door briefly. "You are without your escort?"

She nodded as she scanned the bare room. "I needed to relay some information to you, not over phone lines or electronic communication."

He disappeared into his kitchen, returning with a trash can and a dust brush to sweep the beer bottles and cigarette butts off his side table. "Discreet as always, Precious Child." He tucked the bin inside the kitchen door, then waved her into the recliner before moving a metal folding chair to face her. After he sat, he held out both hands. "Please, tell me."

She leaned forward, her gaze flicking from one armrest to the other at the pops she heard. {This is the flimsiest thing I've ever sat on. Why does he still keep it?} "I know who hacked our communications."

"Ah, excellent. Those three idiots of Mulder's, perhaps?"

Now, she looked up at him. "No, it's the Europeans."

A dark scowl crossed his lined features. "How do you know, My Dear? I had visited with our German colleagues not too long ago, and our meeting was most productive. They relayed that James Andrews had brought them more of the Japanese encryption electronics to try on that old man of the Forty."

"The Anglo-German?" She let out a yawn. "Sorry, too many long flights." She rubbed her face. "Well, I should look them over to see if they're up to the standards of what we've exchanged before, but I was able to activate my tracking software before the signals were lost. After switching through hubs around the world, the source was Bonn."

He crossed his arms. "Very well. A two-front war. We have the lessons of the failure of the National Socialists to learn from, so we shall not make their mistakes."

She slid off the complaining leather. "I should go. I told Drew not to pick me up at the airport because I needed to drop my equipment back at my lab."

He walked beside her to the entrance. "Most intelligent. As always."

She had her fingers on the doorknob, then turned to look up at him. "I'm sorry."

He hooked one hand over her shoulder, the yellow tint of his skin garish against her black polo shirt. "For what, My Dear?"

"I should have consulted with you before I made my plans for Scully."

His dark eyes turned somber. "Yes, you should have. All turned out well, for us, but had anything gone wrong, we could have emplaced contingencies, just in case they were needed. You have learned a lesson I expect you will remember in the future."

As the barrier closed behind her, 'Ace' wrinkled her nose. {I really will have to go by the Lab. I have to shower this stink off and change my clothes before I go home to Drew.}


Apartment 5
Alexandria, VA
Sunday, 8:57 pm

At the key turning in the lock, Dana Scully squared her shoulders. Her call, that had prompted this arrival, had been initiated as a request to her partner give her the time to think this through. But, being who he was, he had headed out of Apartment 42 at the first trill of his cell phone. No matter. Her decision had been taken even before her brothers had finished offering her their 'compromise.' The tall agent, solemn concern radiating from his entire being, had closed and locked the door before crossing the room to stand over her, so she lifted her face to meet his hazel eyes. "Mulder, thank you, but, it was really okay. You didn't need to come rushing over here. You need to catch up on your sleep."

His gaze drifted down to the short stack of papers resting precisely in the center of her otherwise bare white coffee table. "What's this, Scully?" He bent to turn them around. The two-line banner read, 'Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters,' above, 'Application for Employment,' below. He balled the pages up, then launched them across the room into the kitchen. There, they rolled in an irregular track over the white tiles to come to a rest in front of the refrigerator. After spinning three turns around the sofa, he dropped into her tan overstuffed chair. "This was their idea of meeting you halfway." Still furious, he crossed his arms.

As she stared at the space where the papers had been, she nodded. "Of course. Their idea of a proper medical specialty for a woman. I heard from both of them, that now I had 'conquered' the Bureau, it was time for me to move on to new challenges." Sorrow pooling in her green-blue eyes, she met his gaze. "All I could think, as they rattled on and on about the many ways the institution was involved in the community and how I could improve it, was, how soon this whole charade would be over so we could head to the Guys and start them working on the tablet and the camera." One check twitched. "As well as how much fun I had with you and Sandra last night, chattering about anything and everything. One day, I'll be able to keep up with you two and your mental leaps. I don't have to hide who I am with you or her or Caroline or Max."

He regarded her somberly. "Scully, you should never hide who you are. Even if the people you're with don't want to hear it."

"Thank you, Mulder." She held his gaze for a long moment. "Or, how wonderful it felt to be sitting with Rosen and Nichols, Director Skinner, and the SDPD, finally making headway on the Shadows. I even found myself thinking about how much I would have enjoyed throwing popcorn and robots at that silly old Hammer Studios film with you and the Guys. But they kept grinding along, Mom sitting there like a statue, not saying a word, until I couldn't take it anymore. I thanked them kindly for the offer, told them I would consider it, and shooed them out the door. It's too late to head over to the Guys, so I called you. I just needed to hear a friendly voice for a little while."

At the sight of red lines pulsing through the gauze on her left arm, he shifted to sit beside her on her right. "Scully, you didn't have time to put your sling back on, and now you're bleeding again. Didn't they even notice? Don't they care?"

She leaned into the fingers clutching her right shoulder. "No. They didn't even ask. They just looked at each other, and I'm sure are probably blaming you all the way back to Annapolis. It doesn't matter to them that each medical specialty is just that, a specialty, with its own requirements and certifications. They might as well have found me an oncology hospital for all my experience matters for that application. It was just anything to get me out of the Bureau while offering the pretense that they respected my need to be gainfully employed." She flexed her bound fingers carefully. "I've made up my mind, Mulder."

He dropped his hand to the couch. "Scully, they can't - "

Seeing the fear creeping back into his hazel eyes, she shook her head. "Mulder, don't fret, please, not over this. They'll never have another sister. They can't change that, unless the Shadows hand one of them an infant clone of me to raise to be 'their type' of fecund and submissive domestic female. Eventually, I hope they'll come to understand people are more than slots on a duty roster, especially if they leave the Navy and find civilian employment. But, the Bureau is where I belong." Her clear certainty prompted a crooked grin. "I'm not going anywhere. I refuse to be 'fixed' because there's nothing 'wrong' with me."

He leaned toward her. "But, Mrs. Scully-"

The auburn brows drew together. "Mom feels trapped, I'm sure. That's the one thing I regret, that it'll be some time before I can get in contact with her. I'll speak with Director Skinner when he gets in tomorrow and see if we can put her under discreet surveillance."

He nodded. "That State Department security may not be sufficient. Scully?"

She had been shaking her head. "Mom's not at the Donovan's anymore."

He found his feet. "What? She didn't go back home, did she?"

The diminutive pathologist studied her knees before she raised her gaze to meet his. "No, She's staying with Bill and Liz until the new baby comes, probably for a few months afterward."

He settled beside her again. "She told you this?"

A long sigh as she leaned forward. "No, Bill did. He didn't even look at her when he said it. If we were treating this as one of our cases, it would be as if I was seeing a coup played out in front of my eyes."

Throwing both arms along the back, he sprawled against the cushions. "Mutterrecht oder Fatterrecht."

One cheek quirked. "Well, perhaps not quite so universal, Johann, but, certainly in Bill's mind. He's done being polite and waiting for Mom and me to recognize his headship of the family." She rubbed her right eye with the heel of her free hand. "Charlie came up with the job application, I'm sure." She straightened from her crouch before shifting to face him directly. "Now, if I can impose on you again before you go home, Mulder?"

He rested his palm gently on her bruised spine. "All you want, Scully, anytime you want." As he touched a depression in her shoulder, his thick eyebrows drew together. "Hey, how did you?"

She tossed her head. "Front closure, Mulder. That's why I didn't get my sling on before Bill started pounding on the door."

"Ah." The darkening hazel followed her as she rose to walk back to her bedroom.


X-Files East
Washington Field Office
Washington, DC
Monday, June 22, 1998
1:12 pm

"Thank you, Sir. That helps put my mind at ease." Dana Scully pushed herself out of the left chair in front of Walter Skinner's desk.

"Certainly, Agent Scully. For once, we have sufficient resources to execute such plans." The Assistant Director's dark eyes canted toward the lean form in the doorway. "Agent Mulder?"

"Sir." Mulder offered a nod as he strode over to his partner. "Thank you for offering your experience in our discussions with Agent Shiffeln. That may prove invaluable."

Ginger curls bobbed. "Despite what you might think, Sir, you passed along several pieces of information we did not already have."

The bald man leaned back in his chair. "So, is Rob ready to make a decision?"

The tall agent shook his head. "Not yet, Sir. We're on our way to speak with our experts right now." Extending his hand toward the entrance, he waited for his partner to step ahead of him.


Office of the Lone Gunmen
Alexandria, VA
Monday, 1:57 pm

Byers peered through the spy-hole of the door. "It's them. They're back."

Langly was padding toward the computer lab. "Good thing I just finished decoding that first file, then. Let me get some results up on the screen for the Doc."

"Glad they're both safe." Frohike set his broadest grin in place. "Dana?" He stepped toward the agents as they entered.

Mulder mouthed, "Don't fuss," over his partner's head.

The round-faced Gunman dismissed the warning with a wave of a gloved hand.

Scully glanced from one to the other. "Frohike, it's nothing." She held the case with the tablet and camera in front of his glasses. "We brought you more puzzles."

Byers sighed. "We do have a publication to get out, you know. When do Pendrell and Phillips get back from their vacation in Paradise?"

"Three weeks." Scully's response ended with a slight chuckle.

"Open it." Mulder pointed at the case.

The bearded Gunman flipped the latches, the impulse popping up the lid. "What is this?" He lifted out the tablet. "Where did you get this?" He looked from one partner to the other.

"From the effects of a woman we believe was a double agent, working for both the American and Japanese Organizations." Scully tapped the black unit. "When that was operating, it appeared to be a voice-activated translation tablet for messages encoded using the shape-shifters's speech."

Langly joined the group. "Doc, G-man! Every visit is like Christmas with you guys. That's so far ahead of any computer miniaturization we have. That's incredible." He peered into the case. "This CCD unit looks large, with this sidecar chassis attached. The goodies are probably in there."

Mulder crossed his arms. "There may be something in the last few images recorded that would explain a U.S. Marshal's death. Can you read it out?"

Frohike shook his head. "I'd be surprised if there was much stored on-board. Usually that model is just to stream images to a remote location." He followed Byers and Langly back into the computer lab, the agents behind the three.

Byers slid an elastic strap, connected to a blue anti-static pad by a coiled cord, over his wrist before positioning the tablet in the center of the sticky plastic. He tapped the back. "Looks metric."

Langly pressed his left index finger into the grounding pad before reaching into a nearby toolkit with his right hand. "Here, try this." He was holding a black jeweler's star-headed screwdriver.

The others watched as Byers swiveled off eight matching screws.

The auburn-haired pathologist exhaled slowly. "It looks like our luck is still holding, Mulder." The agents exchanged a glance.

He cocked his head. "What are you telling me, Scully?"

The bearded Gunman pointed to the hole in the internal circuit board. "Whoever designed the fail-safe didn't understand the layout. The memory and CPU are set out down below the connector to the display screen, so they obliterated the part of the unit passing neither signal nor power." He settled on a tall work-stool. "Let me read out the power requirements and we should be able to get information off the silicon." He toggled a lever on the back of a network analyzer.

Scully turned to Mulder. "Even if a few of the data storage chips are damaged, we should be able to reconstruct the content from the checksums."

He held up both hands. "Guys, before you lapse completely into Greek-"

"Geek!" his partner and the Gunmen interrupted happily.

"-Whatever. I have to ask, how far have you gotten with the files we sent you?"

The long-haired Gunman swiveled the monitor. "What does this look like to you, Doc?"

Settling onto a work stool, she rubbed her bandaged shoulder as she studied the hexdump of one of the files. "These are DNA sequences. *Terrestrial* DNA sequences." Her green-blue eyes rolled at Mulder's snort. "Four distinct numbers, repeated randomly, not six." A finger ran under one line. "But what I can't understand is why these are in eight bits. That's not very efficient storage." She looked over at her partner. "It only takes two bits to encode the numbers zero through three digitally. A simple C program would let them shift and pack up the data, then unpack it at the other end. Additionally, it would look like ordinary binary numbers at first examination. Hunh." She shook her head. "This is the second technical shortfall by the Japanese." She paused, remembering the intricacy of the chip removed from her neck. "I wonder what's going on here."

Langly scrolled through the file. "Yeah, but, not everybody's a crack programmer, Doc. Some people just blindly use computers. Not like us." The Agent and Gunman exchanged gleeful grins. "Plus, get a load of this." He tapped an eighteen byte sequence.

She nodded. "Data tags, probably Japanese."

Mulder bent over her. "What makes you say that?"

She twisted to face him. "Latin characters can be encoded in seven bits if needs be, but Japanese has well over 256 unique symbols, so it takes two or more bytes for each symbol. It's easy to tell that we're crossing byte boundaries because the most significant bit is set to one in almost every other byte. So, we may be seeing Japanese equivalents of test subject names, or Japanese representations of species names. They're not using binomial nomenclature because that could be handled without the full eight bits for the more common animal species that are named with Latinate and Greek forms of words."

They were nose to nose, now.

The tall agent was focused, his eyes laser-intense. "Why would they be anything other than test subjects, who were, so far as we know, all human?"

She rubbed her shoulder again. "You may be right, Mulder, but we don't yet know the full scope of any of these organization's activities. If Doctor Berube was working with simians, others may have been as well. It could just as easily be a catalogue of existing DNA sequences for reference."

Beginning to pace, he shook his head. "But a simple catalogue of existing species wouldn't be worth all this cloak and dagger."

She stepped into his path. "It might well be, Mulder. Remember how few species scientists in the West have sequences for. The film archive in the underground structure in Africa was for human DNA, extensive, but, still, only for Homo sapiens sapiens. A encyclopedic species genetic catalogue would be a staggeringly significant database for study for many purposes." She glanced over at the screen. "We've both speculated about human-great ape hybrids in the past. This may lead us to proof."

"Hey, guys, check this out!" Frohike had the side-bar chassis to the camera removed, the cover tossed casually off the anti-stat pad.

Mulder stepped back so Scully could walk over ahead of him.

"Looks like this has added on-board storage after all." The round-faced Gunman pointed with a #1 Phillips screwdriver at the bulky disk drive mounted inside.

She gripped the edge of the worktable to ground herself.

Frohike pulled out a stool for her. "This unit has really been enhanced. They had a stripped-down CPU and memory to control the buffering and a monster fan to cool the disk."

Holding her curls back with her right hand, she inspected the electronics closely. "Yes. A custom-compiled Linux kernel is probably running in the on-board RAM here. There's a rechargeable battery to keep it powered continuously. All it would have to do is keep feeding frames out for off-site storage before this twelve gig disk filled up."

The round-faced Gunman had been watching her studying the interior of the box, his eyes glowing behind the wire-framed glasses. "That's smokin', Agent Scully." He sent her a slightly predatory grin, but sobered at the shake of her tall partner's head.

She straightened, then met the gazes of the men on either side of her. "At a surveillance rate of one to two frames per second, there may be several hours of video to go through."

Mulder cocked his head at her. "So, scenes of San Diego in glorious technicolor?"

The little Gunman was practically gleeful. "Not at all! Composite video would eat up too much disk space. This'll be pure Welles."

She tucked her hair behind her ear with her unbound fingers. "I think I should go work with Langly. If there are species names, I may recognize them faster."

Her partner took her place, then waved at the screen. "Each to what we do best, then."

Scully quirked her lips. "Where's a Japanese-English dictionary when you need one?"

He smirked. "Why, with the wonders of the Web, would we still have to look things like that up in hardback books?"

Once the auburn-haired agent had disappeared behind the wall, Frohike grabbed the tall man's shoulder. "Okay, Mulder, I didn't make a big deal about it, so, spill, why is she swathed from her palm all the way up over her left shoulder?"

The hazel darkened. "An assassination attempt in a parking garage, Fro. Fortunately, they tried to hit her while the Taurus was spinning, or else..." He stared down at the green cables snaked between the camera and the monitor. "They weren't after me. I was out of the car, on my feet, and standing still shortly before they got her. Oswald could have made that shot. She still doesn't believe it, but, I'm not letting her out of my sight until we have some closure on the assassin. We had him, with enough physical evidence to lock him up for the rest of his life, then the Smoker snatched him back." He checked for her auburn hair, just visible through the doorway as she was scribbling on a pad of paper then tapping the glass with the cap end of the pen, while the long-haired Gunman nodded. "She can take care of herself, I know - "

"She'll never let you forget it, either." Both men exchanged small grins.

" - but it was like they were predicting our behavior, just lying in wait for us. There was no way they could have just been following us. There wasn't time for them to get set up in place. Neither of us can go it alone with that level of planning on their part. I just got my sister back. I couldn't..." The dark-haired agent's face colored.

The gloved hand tightened. "Then let's see what these images show, alright?"


End – Chermera – Part 33 of 45
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