"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 29 of 45
PG-13 X-File: Myth-arc Disclaimed in Part I
Already sent to Gossamer
University of California at San Diego.
Saturday, June 20, 1998
Jerry Donato held the door for Judy Wilton. "Let's hope Sandra's still in there. If what I've seen over the past twenty-four hours is any guide, there is a lot we need to do to keep her safe."
The slight, blonde professor led him to the elevators. "Detective, does this have anything to do with the Osaka Collective?" She tapped the square button, orange light shining through an over-sized four, then she turned her attention to him.
He chewed his black mustache for a moment. "It has everything to do with them, Judy. If they come sniffing around that collection of artist studios where you work sometimes, give us a call, but, don't engage them. They're very dangerous."
As the doors rolled open, she sighed. "I was afraid of something like that." She was working her way through her keys as they walked. "The outer door is usually unlocked, but Sandie may have turned both." She rattled the handle, then inserted a key with a blue identifying band. Once through, she knocked at the inner door. "Sandie? It's Jerry and I. Are you in there?"
A few thumps sounded. "Is it just you?"
"Yes." The black-haired detective leaned against the wood. "Everyone else is at Northern Division. We have some evidence in Japanese we need your help with, Sandie."
They heard a click, then Sandra stepped through the opening. She was in her black latex riding shorts and a navy blue and gold jersey, her feet covered only in the undercut cycling socks. "I'm sorry, Judy. I know I should have asked, but, after today, I needed to be here. Right here." She waved into the enshrouding darkness.
The slight blonde wrapped an arm around her tall friend's waist. "I know, Sandra. Jerry told me about what happened at the wind tunnel last night."
The hazel squinted at him. "Jerry? How did you know?"
He attempted to grasp her shoulder. "Agent Mulder told us, Sandra. He's horribly worried about you, as are we all. You shouldn't just disconnect like that."
She pushed his palm away, then broke free of Judy's embrace. "Oh, so it's infected all of you, now?" She snorted. "These secret societies out to get us all? Destroy America as we know it?"
Jerry reached into his jacket pocket. "Sandie. I don't want to get into that with you. Can you translate these?" He held out the three Polaroids.
She eyed him as she took them from his hand, making an effort to avoid physical contact with his fingers. Once they were hers, she crossed through the piles of documents to reach the desk. A paper pad on her lap, she was squinting at the first photograph when they joined her.
Jerry pointed. "I tried to take pictures top, middle, bottom. I wanted to get everything as closely focused as possible."
She smiled up at him. "This is good. I can see it all." She began writing, marking the paragraphs 1, 2, or 3. When she was finished, she tore off the paper. "Okay. I see why you wanted me to read this. There are instructions on accessing medical files somewhere on a server." She tapped the page. "That's the IP address. They're not using a name-server, which makes sense for the lean operating system they must be running. All you need is the password, and you can start the ftp." She handed the photographs back, along with the paper. "This is for a case, right?"
"Yes. The Bureau and the U. S. Marshals are involved. If we can get these files, we can know why there are two people dead, and, almost a third."
She tossed the pad back on the piles before she looked up again. "A third?"
Jerry sighed. "The people who may be behind this information tried to kill Agent Scully. She'll be okay, but she's got one arm all bandaged up to over her shoulder, in a sling."
She sprang to her feet. "So, where was this brother of mine?"
The thick-chested detective turned to Judy. "Doctor Seymour-Wilton, would you wait outside, please?"
The willowy blonde looked from one to the other, finally settling her gaze on Sandra's face. "You'll be okay?" She would ask her friend about her brother at a quieter hour.
The brunette moved over to hug Judy. "Yes, I will. Just wait for us, please."
After another concerned check of both their faces, the blonde professor stepped into the hall.
Sandra rounded on Jerry. "So, where was he?"
The black-haired detective had been considering how little he needed to say to sate her curiosity, yet not deepen the rift between sister and brother. "He was right there, Sandie, he pulled her to safety, or else she would be dead."
Her hands on her hips, she was tapping her foot. "But?"
"They had quarreled, and I don't mind saying it was because of you." He folded the paper around the Polaroids before slipping the lot into his inner jacket pocket.
She responded first with a hard glare. "What? That's between us. How did you know?"
Feeling the lateness of the hour, Jerry rubbed his face. "Because he told us. They're stone-cold professionals, Sandie. They're Bureau, focused like hawks on the investigation. Scully should be in the hospital, but she's right there, pulling her weight, and more. Nothing stands in the way of a case, which is what this is. I suspect they've been through hell and back on these people more times than they've let on. I respect that, deeply. So should you." He crossed his arms. "Do you have any clue what the password is? Any insight?"
She shook her head. "No. Let me come back with you, Jerry. If this is as important as you say, I'll need to go over it with Dana. I trust her. If there are medical data in the files, she should be able to work out what they are. Maybe my brother can be of some use. We shall see. My street clothes are in my pack in my office. Let me get changed and we can be on our way." The two stepped out to the waiting blonde, who locked the outer door before they left.
Interrogation Room Two
San Diego Police Department
San Diego, CA
Saturday, 1:31 am
Richard Gonzales’s gaze bounced from one face to the next, the five of them gathered around the dark table. "Okay. What you're telling me fits with the documents from the trial, but, what's this about the Arctic? About Africa? Does it have anything to do with the rocket in the news?"
Mulder nodded. "The shape-shifters left on that rocket."
The Latino officer sent back a quick stare. "But, how do you know?"
Scully twisted on her seat, moving her spine off the vertical frame. "We were there, Detective. We had spoken with the shape-shifters at length before they took off. Saunders and Knox went with them."
Gonzales covered his eyes with his palms for a moment. "You have to understand how this all sounds, Agents. If I hadn't seen what I've seen these past twenty-four hours, this would all seem like science fiction." He dropped his hands to his lap.
Nichols rested his arm on the wood. "I know. If we hadn't lived it ourselves, we wouldn't have believed it, either. Trust us on that."
At the voices in the hall, Rosen stepped to the glass, then peered outside. "Guys, Detective Donato's back, and Sandra's with him." She closed the door. "They're headed this way."
Scully checked her partner's face. The blaze of joy she caught for a moment was rapidly extinguished by sorrow, mixed with more than a little fear. "Mulder, let me talk to her." She pointed toward the one-way mirror. "If you're fast, you can slip in there and watch her." She grasped his wrist, then released it. "Maybe by the end, we can bring you back in."
He nodded before he stepped out.
Jerry Donato had delayed Sandra with a trip into the Sergeant's office just long enough for Mulder to close the door behind him. "Okay, I think they're in number two."
The chestnut-haired professor took one glance at Scully, then crossed the room to grasp her shoulder as she bent over her. "Dana, are you okay?"
The auburn-haired agent found her feet. "Tired, but I'll mend. So, tell me what you've discovered."
Sandra stared at their reflections. "He's in there, isn't he?"
Nichols nodded. "We know, Doctor Miller. It's okay. Just be seated."
But she was in the corridor, returning after a few moments, her fingers wrapped around Mulder's arm, scolding him as he staggered along behind her. "This is an investigation, Jerry explained. You have intuition based on experience into matters such as these, he says. So, you should be here, Fox." She dropped her hand, turned her back to him, then settled in the nearest metal chair at the table.
The tall agent waited for her to sit before he leaned against the wall behind her. His gaze never left her long chestnut curls, but he said nothing.
Scully padded over to stand in front of him. They held each other's eyes, exchanging nods before she took the seat by Sandra. "Okay, so, what do we have?"
Jerry laid out the photographs and the paper. "This password is for a web-site with medical information. Why Alice Franklin was supposed to be accessing it is something else we'll need to figure out." He turned to the diminutive pathologist. "That's about all."
The auburn-haired agent hooked her laptop to the Department network. "We have the IP address." She connected to the site. "If this was her real name, we'll just use that for the login." After typing in 'franklin' she hit the Enter key.
Gonzales had been looking over her shoulder. "But the password?"
Scully clicked in ten characters, then Sandra let out a gasp of surprise. "What was that?"
A bandaged shoulder slumped. "REANDROGEN." She spoke the letters, rather than the word. "I remember the doctors who ran the tests on me kept using the name, expecting us not to understand."
"Re-generate humans." Mulder shook his head. "They didn't expect you to live, Scully." He moved behind her to grasp her undamaged shoulder. "It didn't matter to them even if you could work it out." He looked down at his sister. "Sandra, now do you see? These people are -"
"Evil." She rose to meet his gaze evenly. "I *do* realize that, Fox. But, what I want to understand is *you*, not what *they* are."
"Samndra. Thank you for helping. For being here." He enclosed her in his arms. "I'm your brother. I'll always be your brother."
She pushed her way free. "Are you? I don't know." She was out the door, Jerry Donato on her heels.
Sinking into the chair his sister had just left, Mulder dropped his face into his hands.
Scully typed several keys, then looked over at Rosen. "Please, keep track of the download." She leaned against her partner's shoulder, but said nothing. They would speak later, when they had privacy.
Donato opened the glass door. "I'm running Sandra home." He beckoned the Latino detective out to exchange a few quiet words, so the four agents were alone.
After a long moment, Nichols faced his former partner. "How's it going?"
"Fifteen percent, Nic." She turned to Scully. "If these really are medical data, will you be able to make sense of them?"
The green-blue eyes met her hazel ones. "If I can't, I'll take it to Susan Miles. Between us, we should be able to understand what was so important about these data."
Mulder straightened in his seat. "She's a double agent. She has to be. She's feeding the Smoker what he wants to hear, while working with the Japanese Shadows. There's no other explanation for why she's dead." He checked his partner's face, desperately relieved when she nodded, then sent him a shallow crease of her cheek.
Nichols let out a puff of a sigh. "I think so, Chief. We saw that often enough with the drug dealers."
Scully rubbed the jacket over her bandaged shoulder. "None of this explains where James Andrews is, though, or what happened to him."
Acutely sensitive to her physical discomfort, Mulder placed his hand on the back of her chair, so only his fingertips contacted her bruised spine. "Or what Don Tapping wasn't supposed to find." He cocked his head, waiting for her confirmation.
"We still have work to do, Mulder. When the detectives get back, we should take stock of what we know, so we can go forward." She held his gaze. "We'll work this out."
Nichols checked the three faces. "Okay, time to caffeinate, guys. I'll be back. This isn't the usual Police swill. Hang tight."
"Twenty-five percent." Rosen pulled a face at the slow progress. "So, where is the suspect in Alice Franklin's death?" She looked from one partner to the other.
Scully shifted on the seat. "He's still in Holding, but I don't expect we'll get anything out of him, even if we could talk to him."
Mulder rubbed his eyes. "We're under orders from Pierce to not interfere with his case."
Rosen frowned. "But, when has that stopped you two?"
The door opened. Nichols was carrying not coffees, but the black tablet, in his latex-encased hands. "This was a dead-end." The glass was melted, a hole burned completely through the unit.
"A fail-safe, just as we had feared?" The auburn-haired pathologist was musing to herself.
After a nod, Mulder turned to Rosen. "How's the download?"
The diminutive agent leaned over. "Open another X-term and be certain the files are actually coming down and have size. I don't think we'll be able to get back in."
A few keys clicked. "Yes. They're all there, so far."
Scully slid her chair over. "Try cat'ing one. Let's see what's in it."
Rosen frowned. "Looks like binaries, not text. This may be a while." She shook her head. "No, the connection's been terminated. That's all we're getting."
The partners exchanged a tired glance. "Let's hope that's enough." Mulder rubbed his face.
Her concern deepening, the brunette astronomer leaned forward. "Guys, you forget we know you. We know how hard you run. When was the last time you two ate? Slept?"
Scully cocked her head. "Onion rings?" Her cheek creased. That carefree dinner seemed forever ago. "No, breakfast on Thursday, before flying out here." She turned to her partner. "Mulder? What about you? Did you get anything on the flights out?"
He sent her an odd glance. "No. Onions rings it was." A tiny light crept into his eyes at the memory.
She reached over to grasp his shoulder.
With a snort, Rosen pulled out her cell phone. "Cary? Babe? I hate to ask this, but could you throw together some of your veggie specials for me? I'll give you the address in a minute, after I get it from the Sergeant. Make some meat sandwiches, too. Great. Thanks." She left the room.
San Diego Police Department
San Diego, CA
Saturday, 3:56 am
A tall African-American stepped into Interrogation Room Two. "Miss Hooper? Sergeant Martin Johnson." He extended his hand toward Cary, grasping her fingers firmly, but with care. "Thanks for such a delicious repast. My officers and these agents have been putting in some long hours."
After a glance at Rosen, she smiled broadly. "I'm happy to do what I can to help, Sergeant Johnson. Andrea has told me a little about this place."
He offered her his arm. "Then, as thanks, let me give you the cook's tour, so you can meet some of your other fans."
Donato watched them go, Cary's round form bobbing along beside his whip-thin superior. "He's a good guy to work for. He always has our backs, regardless."
Gonzales nodded. "Yeah. He'll make a great Chief of Police, one day."
Scully eyed the black tablet abandoned in the middle of the table. "We should send that back to the Guys. If anyone could work out the technology involved in that, they could."
Nichols shook his head. "I don't know how you'd get it back to them, unless one of you hand-carried it, but none of you will be headed east for several days."
Gonzales grunted. "Yeah. We'd normally use the Marshal's services for something this sensitive, but that's not going to happen."
Mulder took his last bite of roast beef on rye. "We'll have to carry it back when we go, but we can at least get them started on the files we downloaded." He turned to his partner. "You want to give them a call, or should I?" He smirked.
She tossed her head. "I'll do that. We've given them a nice, long break, Mulder."
Donato patted his mustache with a paper napkin, the bright yellows of the sunflowers printed on it a stark contrast to the greys of their surroundings. "So, who are these Guys?"
The tall agent shifted on his seat. "A small group of experts outside the Bureau we consult for sensitive stuff we don't want falling into the wrong hands."
San Diego Police Department / Office of the Lone Gunmen
San Diego, CA / Alexandria, VA
Saturday, 4:21 am / Saturday, 7:21 am
Frohike rolled over at the rattling phone. "Lone Gunmen."
Scully canted her green-blue eyes toward her partner, who smirked at her expression. "Frohike, we have some files for you to decode." She tucked her chin, waiting.
He was shoving his hair back over his crown with his free hand. "Doctor Judd, what a pleasant surprise! The Professor hovering anywhere nearby?"
One cheek quirked. "Who, Quatermass, or Miller?"
Frohike banged on Langley's door as he mouthed, 'It's her,' at the tousled blonde hair, then, rapped at Byers's entrance. "Why, Miller, of course. Do tell us, Agent Scully, what's she like?"
The auburn-haired pathologist shifted on the seat. "Frohike, one look at her long, muscular legs and flowing chestnut hair, and you'll forget all about dumpy little me." She winked at her partner.
Gonzales's eyes went wide, so Donato dragged him out of the interrogation room before he could begin commenting under his breath. Once they were in the hall, he stepped close. "Save it, Rich. If they can help us detangle this mess, let them."
His black eyebrows beginning to twitch, Gonzales checked back through the glass. "These Bureau guys are so steely-jawed focused I didn't expect, I don't know, chatter like that out of her." He grinned. "At least she's not serious as - "
Jerry Donato nodded. " - a Moirai all the time." He shoved his hands in his pockets. "I know. I met them together at Sandra's place, when she was out of town. They weren't quite this somber. Although, he was almost as flighty as a feral cat when he was on his own."
The Latino detective walked them both down the hall. "So, what *did* happen with the delightful Professor Miller?"
Jerry shook his head. "I dropped her and her bike off, she said thanks, and closed the door." He shrugged helplessly. "I didn't know what to do, so I came back here."
Gonzales nodded. "Okay. When we get off-shift, drop by again, if you have any gas left in the old tanks. Agent Mulder and she are family. I don't see what her problem is." He held up both hands. "Okay, if he had murdered somebody, I'd get that. But, giving a suspect a rough talking-to? That's what's eating at her? After all the years they've been apart?"
Donato eyed him. "Don't judge, Rich."
"But, I can." Gonzales leaned forward. "I have brothers and sisters I haven't seen in decades, Jerry. If they showed up on my doorstep, I'd take them in, let them sleep in my bed, regardless of the badge."
The thick-chested detective began pacing, then stopped to rest his hand on his partner's back. "Rich, I'm sorry, I didn't know. You told me you got your folks out, but you'd never said. Is there anything I can do to help?"
Gonzales's shoulders slumped. "Not really. We're trying to get them out legally, but they're farmers. My sisters never made it out of grade school. You know how restrictive the immigration requirements are for people in Nicaragua. It's better to sneak across the border to Costa Rica and work for good money than fight with US immigration. They're okay financially, so, there's that, at least." He sighed. "But, thanks for asking." He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. "Should we go back and see if the guy on the phone's proposed yet?"
Jerry's mustache twitched. "No, let's leave them be." He pointed back at the hall. "We can get some of our other work caught up on while they're all Eliot Nessing in there, what?"
The partners headed back to their desks.
Back in Alexandria, Frohike was huffing, playfully feigning offense. "You will always have my whole heart, Dearest Doctor."
She cocked an eyebrow. "Okay. How should I get them to you? I have Internet access, so I won't have to use dial-up."
The round-faced Gunman waved Langly and Byers into their lab with him. "I can send you some new encryption software so you can load it on our ftp site." He powered up a computer. "Look for an E-mail from me very shortly. Don't tell me where you got it on this open line."
She tapped several keys on her laptop. "Okay, waiting. I'll send you the information on the source encrypted as well." Her auburn eyebrows drew together. "Your mail is here." She clicked. "I've got the information. I'll send the files back to you shortly."
As Scully leaned back from the computer, Nichols rose from the table, then looked to his former partner. "Let's go rescue Cary from her adoring fans and bundle you two on home, okay?"
Rosen joined him. "Yeah, I should get a bit of sleep before I have to head into the Lab. We're likely to have clear weather once the Sun sets."
Once they were in the hall, he touched her shoulder. "Ros, I can't thank you and Cary enough for what you've done here."
She cocked her head. "I didn't do all that much, Nic."
"No, you did more than you needed to, Cary especially. The last guy in my job wasn't very good with the local constabulary, and I'm trying to make amends. We'll need their help, a lot, as our investigations progress over the next few years."
"Feeding hungry police officers a free home-made meal in the middle of the night is always a good place to start, Agents." Johnson had joined them, Cary beaming on his arm. Once the emptied trays and plates had been collected, the spouses on their way, the African-American turned back to Nichols. "You meant what you were telling Doctor Rosen?"
The balding Montanan nodded. "Of course. What you've seen over the past day or so is just the tip of the iceberg for what we have to investigate in the near future. If we can build up some fellow-feeling, it will help going forward."
Johnson's gaze drifted back toward the interrogation room. "What about your other agents?"
Nichols huffed through his mustache. "Actually, they're my bosses, in our odd little corner of the Bureau." He checked over his shoulder. "They've been partners for six years, so it's best to give them their space at times like this. That's how they'll make it through."
The Sergeant offered a knowing nod. "Okay, let's get back to it, then." He held out a long arm.
End – Chermera – Part 29 of 45