"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 31 of 45

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Sep 9, 2020, 4:25:22 PM9/9/20
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"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 31 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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Marriot Sorrento Valley
San Diego, CA
Saturday, June 20, 1998
12:21 pm

Walter Skinner pocketed his cell phone. Sharon had been more than understanding about his prolonged absence, but after too many separations for his taste, he wanted her to know how much he appreciated her patience. He checked the number on the room key he had acquired the previous night, noting that he was two doors down and across the hall from his agents. So much the better. While he had been sufficiently jet-lagged to understand the desire for connection, he and Mulder were different enough people that he needed his own space. Once inside, he dropped the Foot Locker bag on the bed closest to the door. This would have to do for fresh clothes until the immediate crisis was past.

He considered ringing the dark-haired agent, but decided this news should be delivered in person. After letting his own door swing closed, he made his way to the tall man's room. "Agent Mulder?" He leaned against the steel before he rapped. There was no answer. Either he was out exercising, or the partners had set out tracking down another lead. Three steps later, he was outside the adjacent entrance. "Agent Scully?" She needed to rest, but he knew she would never shirk her duties for reasons of injury or fatigue. When he heard nothing inside, even after a few minutes of waiting, he began walking back to his temporary quarters. Partway down the hall, he stopped. He had heard a ripping pop, which told him someone within had heard his query, so he turned back. The barrel of a SIG-Sauer was projecting beyond the frame slightly.

"Sir!" The tall agent pushed his way through to hold the steel closed against the frame, but not latched, behind him. "Sir?"

Skinner's eyes narrowed. "Agent Mulder?"

A huff, then the weapon was holstered. "Agent Scully's asleep. She doesn't know I'm here." He checked back into the darkened room. "But, after yesterday, I needed to keep watch. They're after her, Sir." The tenor was scratchy. "They almost got her."

The Assistant Director offered a grim nod. "They'll come after both of you now, Mulder." In times past, he would have dressed him down for the argument Luther had intentionally revealed, but, no longer. The recrimination in the dark-haired man's eyes had told him there were no words he could toss out that his agent had not already silently flung at himself in the darkness.

The younger man stepped away from the barrier, but left his fingers on the lever. "Where does the investigation stand, Sir?"

"Into the attack on you two? Not where it ought to, Agent."

"Sir? Are you here?" A small hand was pulling the door away. "Mulder? Director Skinner?" Dana Scully was just inside the entrance, checking their long, blackened faces in turn. "What are you both doing here? What's happened back at the Division?"

The bald Director's jaw set. "The Marshals have taken Luther, as well as the ballistics evidence. The charges I filed have been dropped, at all levels."

The partners exchanged a glance before Mulder crossed his arms. "But, Sir, Sergeant Johnson agreed we were to keep him for a few hours longer."

Skinner rubbed the sides of his nose under his glasses. "The matter was taken out of his hands. Pierce went to the police chief."

"Without letting him know of the Bureau's involvement, I'm certain." Scully adjusted the robe more firmly closed around herself. "Sir, have you spoken to Senator Matheson? What does he advise? Can he help us here?"

He began with a shake of the bald head. "Not anymore, Agent Scully."

The tall agent began fidgeting. "Luther's gone."

Skinner set his teeth. "Of course, Agent Mulder. You were expecting the Smoker to just let us keep him?"

"Sir," Scully interjected, "We think we have a plan for that."

The Assistant Director's dark eyes traveled from one drawn face to the other. "I'm glad someone does."

She stepped back so they could both enter. Once the door was closed, she spun. "What can you tell us about Rob Shiffeln's abilities?"

The bald Director regarded them both somberly. "He hasn't given up on his efforts to convince you two to let him go undercover with the Smoker, has he?"

Two heads, turning from side to side.

"If anyone could pull it off, he could. He's one of the Bureau's best covert operatives, when he puts his mind to it. But, he'll have to be extensively briefed."

Scully regarded her supervisor carefully. "Will you be participating in that, Sir?"

Skinner took off his glasses. "Yes, Agents. I will. I want both of you there as well. It's time you knew what I did. All of it, for what little good it will offer. Agent Scully?"

She had been padding to the small closet by the bathroom. "I'll just be a minute." She turned back to him. "Unless we should wait for you to catch a few hours, Sir?"

Mulder began walking toward his partner. "Scully, you should get some more rest."

She cocked an eyebrow at him. "I feel better. I can catch up tonight, Mulder. This is too important."

Skinner reached for the door lever. "Agreed, Agent Scully, on both counts. We need to do something to unsettle that old spy. I'll meet you out front after a quick shower." The younger man began to speak, but the Director held up his hand. "I have my own room, Mister Mulder, two doors down. Be ready."

The tall agent moved to stand beside his partner. "We will be, Sir."

--o-0-o--

Fenleyding, Northumbria
Saturday, 6:01 pm

Alex Krycek dropped a opened codex on the desk in front of the Suebi, the stiff parchment flapping as it landed. "Tell me about this ritual." He pointed to a title in Gothic handwriting.

The long nose turned up to him. "That has not been used in centuries. I'm surprised there are even written descriptions."

The dark-haired man extended a folded sheet toward him. "Then, how did this get in there?"

Age-spotted hands took the paper. On one side was a typewritten copy of the text in the Codex, with written annotations above. Under each line, astronomical symbols ran. The Suebi smoothed back his white hair. "I recognize the handwriting, but not the symbols. This was written by the Atrebates of the Slav. He would often take notes for her and pass them on to me, if it was important. Why was he reading this? And when?"

"You mean Christina Knox, or some other Slav?" Krycek snorted. "Who was he, anyway? Why would he agree to be led around by a woman?"

The Suebi sent him a sharp glare. "You are very young, and very full of yourself. Some of the world's greatest leaders have been women: Elizabeth Tudor, Catherine di Medici, Hatshepsut, Empress Catherine the Second, Maharini Jindan Kaur. That half the human race has not been able to govern, or participate in any human endeavor to the fullest of their abilities except in a handful of cases, is one of our species's greatest failings, and one we are working to rectify." He grasped the slender shoulder firmly. "All I can tell you of the Atrebates was that he was a member of the organization to which you formerly belonged. He had retired at quite a young age, for us, before he agreed to officially assume the office. He had acted in that capacity unofficially for some time prior, as some choose to do."

The younger man's eyebrows both arched. "William Mulder? You must be joking."

A Berluti-clad foot stamped. "Tribuno, we do not use the names from the outside for the Forty among ourselves. She will be the Slav, until the initiation is complete. He will be her Atrebates, until the Slav chooses her new chief lieutenant. Why are you asking about this ritual?"

The dark-haired man crossed his arms. "You might need it for your new Riata. She still has attachments in the outside world: a Mother, two Brothers, nephews, friends in the Bureau, Mulder."

The Suebi pushed himself to his feet. "We do not cut ourselves off from the outside, Tribuno. We live in two worlds, attempting to elevate each. The Riata should be approached as we have done for centuries, with persuasion and logic, not with force, nor with indoctrination. She will be encouraged to keep her position in the Bureau, in fact, we will use our allies to see to her advancement."

The younger man let out a breath through his teeth that sounded like a hiss. "Oh, you overestimate her. She's one of the straightest of straight arrows. She can't do duplicity like you want. She'll break mentally and then where will your precious Fellowship stand?"

A long hand waved. "You should put this away now. It should never have been uncovered, not by the Slav's Atrebates, nor by you."

Krycek poked a line on the facing page. "But, what does this mean: by a decision of all living members of the Ekklesia present?" He looked up. "Does that mean all living members must be present for the choice to use the ritual to be valid, or only that of the living members who could be present?"

The white head shook. "That is indeterminate." The Suebi closed the book. "Now, put this away, back where you found it. I would throw the document on the fire, let it burn away to nothing, if it were not part of the records of the Ekklesia."

Krycek offered a mocking bow. "Then, back it goes."

The pale blue eyes followed the younger man as he disappeared around a bookshelf. {Perhaps I should not have trusted him. He refuses to abandon the ways he learned among the others and embrace our methods.} He turned to smile at the dark-suited figure by his elbow. "Yes, Frijdolf?"

"Sir, shall I bring the tea?"

"That would be most appreciated, old friend." He waved at the bookcase. "What do you think of our Tribuno? A firebrand?"

Frijdolf looked back over his shoulder. "He is as you describe him, Sir. Very young, and very full of himself. Such men may prove vital to the future, if they are well trained." A slight smile, a bow, then he padded silently toward the kitchen.

--o-0-o--

X-Files West Office
San Diego FBI Field Office
San Diego, CA
Saturday, 6:32 pm

"So, that's it?" Rob Shiffeln checked the faces around the table. "This is the super-secret organization you guys are so concerned about?" The slight man let out a puff of disgust.

Dana Scully shifted on her chair. "Agent Shiffeln, do not be misled, these people have been involved in heinous crimes against this nation and, through its other branches, the rest of the civilized world. They must not be underestimated."

He leaned toward her. "Agent Scully, I'm not disagreeing with you." He sent her a tight, mirthless, smile, then waved at her bound arm. "You, you especially, can say that." He turned to her partner. "You, too, Agent Mulder, with your sister and all."

A brown cowlick dropped on the tall agent's forehead. "But?"

Shiffeln unconsciously pushed at his own receding hairline. "From where I sit, these guys are almost too-easy pickings. The involvement of our government?" He glanced at Nichols. "Phil will tell you: drug cartels own governments all over the world." He waited for the Montanan's confirming nod, then rose to begin circling the ASAC's desk. "See, the people we deal wit' don't sit and have big confabs in Manhattan high-rises like your guys do. They just blow people away. There's always a new face, a new cell, popping up, followin' the markets." He stopped by Walter Skinner's chair. "Yeah, Walt, I hear you about the secrecy, but, this Smoker guy, who's the head honcho now. He's what? Seventy-five? These guys in the other organizations are gettin' just as long in the tooth?" He crossed his arms. "Yeah, they're a power alright, but sooner than you think, they'll be makin' bad decisions, forgettin' stuff."

Rosen leaned over the table. "But, there are younger operatives who are very capable coming up. We suspect it was these who engineered the assassination attempt on Agent Scully." Her hazel eyes canted toward Mulder's nod of affirmation. "We know about the Americans, some of them, but the Europeans, the Japanese, the Chinese?" She shook her head. "We have little intel to give you on them. If you go into a meeting with them, you'll be blind."

Nichols's chair creaked. "Rob, I have to agree with everyone here. These guys don't mess around, regardless of their high living. Take the next couple of days to read over the documentation we have. Sandra sussed out connections we didn't know about the Asian operations that we'll be following up on." He glanced over at his former partner. "We don't want to let you go in empty-handed. There is that information we have a group of experts back in DC studying that will tell us more about the Japanese."

Mulder found his feet, circling to stand beside Shiffeln. "My original contact on the inside, years ago, told me there were branches in Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany. If the Europeans are working as a collective, that's something, but, it's just a guess right now." He rested both hands on the desk to address their operative, eye to eye. "We know nothing about the groups inside Russia, or, as we discovered a couple of years ago when Scully and I were down there on a different case, the organizations in Central America. Also, we know they have bases in Africa, but how much those are still in use we don't have the forces to determine, just yet."

Scully closed the folder in front of her. "These organizations keep popping up, almost as fast as we think we've uncovered something on them. The more we learn, the more we realize we don't know. We'll give you all the help we can, Agent Shiffeln, but, if you decide there is not enough information to start up this undercover action, we'll understand. You're the one at the most risk here, so it must be your choice, and yours only. We deeply appreciate your eagerness to take on an extremely challenging assignment, but Agent Mulder and I both know the danger involved when going it alone." The partners held each other's gaze for a long moment.

Shiffeln watched nods from the others in the room at her unspoken recommendation. "That's not a problem. I'll think this over for a few days, while your guys get that intel. Okay?"

Skinner and Nichols checked each other's faces before the bald Director turned to the slight man. "That's all we can ask, Rob. If we do this, we'll need to carefully construct and seed support for your cover story. There are highers-up in the Bureau working for Him, who can access your personnel file with a simple phone call. Keep that in mind, too, as you weigh your actions."

The slight agent held up both hands. "Guys, I get it. This'll take time to set up. Really. I'll take these documents and do some plottin'. Thanks." He settled back on the chair in the center of the office.

The jangling of the phone on the desk had the balding Montanan reaching to pick it up. "Sergeant, thanks for calling me." He listened for a few moments. "Okay. Let me alert the Agents here, and we'll head to the Northern District. That may be the break we've needed."

Mulder had returned to his place next to Dana Scully. "What?"

Nichols arched both greying blonde brows as he replaced the hand-set. "Good thing we left that list of suspects behind, Chief, and the SDPD kept poking around. Donato and Gonzales have found a James Andrews listed on a flight from San Diego to JFK, then changing planes to Brussels. He paid excess baggage fees on both."

The partners exchanged a glance before Mulder spoke calmly. "That's where we're headed next."

--o-0-o--

Northern Division
San Diego Police Department
San Diego, CA
Saturday, 7:19 pm

Jerry Donato looked up as the double doors swung open, then the four agents entered. "Hey, over here!" He waved them toward an interrogation room.

Mulder stepped to his side as they walked. "Sounds like you have more than just flight manifests, Detective."

"Oh, yes. You'll see." The thick-chested detective held the door, nodding to Scully as she passed, then grunting in surprise at Walter Skinner. "I thought you were headed back for some shut-eye, Director."

The bald man shook his head. "If this is the break we need, I wanted to be here for it."

Nichols chuffed through his mustache. "Video? You guys managed to score surveillance video?" He sent Gonzales a thumbs-up. "Ros will be upset she missed this, but she needed to get ready for her telescope time tonight."

The Latino detective waited until they were all seated, pointed to Jerry, who dimmed the lights, then Gonzales pressed play. The wide-angle camera lens caught Andrews approaching the ticket counter, before checking multiple square flat black cases through as luggage.

"So, whatever he was supposed to be selling in these art shows to the Osaka Collective, ended up going east to Brussels." Martin Johnson had taken the chair closest to the door.

Mulder turned to Scully. "It doesn't look like he was transporting fake artifacts here."

She shook her head. "No, these are cases for paintings. So, what are they, stolen?"

Johnson chuckled. "Probably just misdirected."

Donato nodded. "Evans was supposed to have purchased what, eight paintings?"

Gonzales flipped through his notes. "Yes, that's right. How many cases did Andrews check in?"

"Eight." Mulder's clipped answer had a ring of certainty.

Scully turned to the African-American sergeant. "So, these were supposed to go to the Orient, but he took them to Europe. There must have been a lot more money offered if he was stiffing Osaka."

Mulder shrugged. "Or, the paintings are hiding something else."

Scully cocked her head. "Electronics? Other documents on the Japanese Consortium?"

The dark-haired agent shifted to address her directly. "Are we seeing communications not involving the American organization?"

Scully twisted on the seat to move her bound shoulder out of contact with the metal ribs in the back of her chair. "Would that be a surprise, though, Mulder? Considering how unstable the group became under the Four, taking a longer-term view would mean bypassing the weakest link."

Gonzales waved a hand at the partners. "Guys, catch the rest of us up again, okay?"

Nichols turned to him. "The American organization has ostensibly been the lead among the Shadow governments, but it split, probably into those loyal to the Four and those loyal to the Smoker. We were following up on the deaths of many of their operatives."

Skinner took off his glasses. "They've taken to advertising for replacements under the guise of hiring for a government contractor, which is sheer desperation, based on how organized they were before."

The auburn-haired agent uncrossed, then re-crossed, her legs. "I think he was transporting electronics, probably in hollows in the frames."

Mulder leaned forward as he rested his arms on the table to look levelly into her face. "What makes you say that, Scully?"

She tapped the back of her neck with her right index finger. "Pendrell said the implant taken from me was Japanese and without a power source, of manufacture beyond what we could do in the States. Add in the tablet to translate the shape-shifters's speech and we're talking technology well above what we've seen from the American Consortium, who have been relying on DNA markers and radioactive chips. Remember that second implant? The one that was corroded and has ceased working?"

Mulder closed his eyes momentarily. "I'm unlikely to forget it, Scully."

She turned to Skinner. "You should be tested, Sir. You may have been injected as Saunders was for DNA modification purposes."

The bald Director gritted his teeth. "I *was* injected, Agent Scully. We were told it was an inoculation for hemorrhagic fever if we should have to travel to Africa for the Organization, but no such vaccination exists, I have since found out."

Her auburn brows drew together. "Any health changes, Sir? Unexplained weight loss?"

He shook his head. "I had the fatigue I usually associate with getting a flu shot, but developed none of the other minor symptoms one usually exhibits."

The half-glass door opened, revealing a uniform, who was beckoning to Martin Johnson. When the African American returned from the hall, he was openly grinning.

Donato and Gonzales exchanged a nod before the Latino detective smiled back. "Sir?"

"A terrible misfortune." The twinkle in his eye told them it was anything but. "It seems, when we were required to turn over all materials relating to Marshal Tapping's murder, one piece of evidence was left behind by mistake." He rested his hands on the table. "The camera the Marshal was working on when he was killed."

The room exploded in gasps, then Mulder and Scully leaned close to each other. "Looks like we have two pieces of evidence for those layabouts to dig into." She lifted her chin.

His hazel eyes met her green-blues. "Yeah. That Pierce hasn't been raising hell about it being missing is pretty telling, too." He looked over at the Sergeant. "Our guys can dig into it. That way, the onus is on the Bureau for its disappearance, not the SDPD. Right now, I don't think our relations could be much worse." Scully and Nichols were nodding emphatically.

Walter Skinner allowed himself a tiny smirk, but kept silent. His agents were growing into their new roles, almost before his eyes.

Nichols stepped over to Martin Johnson. "Then, I think our accelerated shifting has been served its purpose. We've found case solutions for the murders we came together to investigate, even if convictions will be hard to obtain. Your guys still vertical?"

The African American nodded. "They are. I'll gather everyone in the main room for you."

As they filed out, Jerry Donato touched the tall agent's shoulder. "Agent Mulder, take this." He was holding out a slip of paper. "These are Sandra's phone numbers. You have her home phone, I think, but not her work numbers. You two need to not lose touch, not after all this time."

Scully offered her thanks with her full-wattage smile. "We'll check in with her after we finish here, won't we, G-man?" She grasped her partner's jacketed elbow firmly. "Okay?"

His forehead deeply furrowed, he nodded, but said nothing as they walked.

--o-0-o--

End – Chermera – Part 31 of 45
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