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archive:stories:forgotte
             FORGOTTEN SOULS
                  By:  CAC
                                                                  

Alias: The Stinker

FORWARD

  • *

I don't know exactly how to describe this one except that there is a touch of romance, some mystery, some old friends and some new ones. There'll be some unexpected twists and turns and hopefully some new or different insights. Our heroes may have gotten in over their heads and need a little "outside" intervention, when some old enemies return. No copyright infringements intended etc…..

                                                              PRELUDE

* When everything you own Will fit in a paper sack No one notice you leavin' Nobody ask you when you comin' back You live in a rented room Your money run out too soon You've pawned all your hopes Bummed all your smokes And you leave by the Quarter Moon Kathy Matea—

The morning sun rose steadily above the decaying tiles of old abandoned "Fisher's Market" and shone its cascading brightness through the carefully cut openings of the large, weathered, cardboard box in the deserted alley.

Rose Bellman awoke to another day of "experience" as she was fond of calling it, for there were many times when she wondered if this could possibly be "life." She carefully folded the plaid blanket she had found the day before in a dumpster off Lincoln Ave. and placed it neatly beside the other discarded treasures that she had accumulated over the past ten years since her husband's death, then she considered silently whether or not *she* could be a "discarded treasure" as well. Memories of the good times, before her husband's lingering illness had made them destitute, crowded her mind and a tear found its way to her eye. That's enough of *that* kind of thinking, she told herself as she emerged from her shelter and stretched in the warm summer air. Today would be a good day, she decided arbitrarily…maybe he would be there today.

Straightening her faded, tattered clothing, she brushed her hair and readjusted the contents of the old rusted shopping cart and started her rounds.

It was about 8AM when she finally rounded the corner and spied the tall, stark white facade of the J. Edgar Hoover building. It was a forbidding structure yet it held for her nothing but fond memories. Every day she would pass this way in hopes of seeing the young man who had quite possibly saved her life some three years past and today she was not disappointed. She spotted him far off, strolling gingerly down the walkway, but unlike every other day, this time he was not alone. A petite, attractive young woman walked beside him, playfully nudging him in the side as he tilted his head back in amusement. Rose rejoiced in his laughter and in his companion for in her opinion he had been without both for far too long.

Seeing him now reminded her of the first time that they had met over three years ago. She'd had a full cart when the young thugs had attacked her, pushed her to the ground and toppled her cart. They had done it in broad daylight, in front of dozens of people who would not help and across from this very building. She knew she would have fared much worse had it not been for the timely intervention of a young man who had been walking behind her. After chasing the buggers off, he'd lifted her to her feet with a surprisingly gentle strength, uprighted her cart and replaced the items that had fallen onto the sidewalk. A soft voice had inquired if she would be all right and fawn-like hazel eyes shone with genuine concern. The eyes…he was an attractive young man, yet his eyes, though kind, were ancient….they held within their fathomless depths a sort of pain that she had rarely seen in one so young. They were so sad. He had given her what money he had and told her to get a warm place to sleep, for the night would be cold.

She smiled as the couple approached. She had never asked for money or anything but he had always discreetly given her something under one pretense or another, always being careful to preserve her dignity.

"Hi ya Mulder," she said cheerily.

Recognizing the voice, Mulder turned temporarily from his conversation with Scully to gaze down at her and smile warmly.

"How ya doin' Rose? Any new gossip on the streets these days?"

"That depends," she replied with a wink, "Who's your *friend*?"

"Roselyn Bellman, this is my partner, Dana Scully. Dana, this is Rose, mother hen extroidinare, matchmaker, etc. of all that lives and breathes between here and Lincoln Ave."

"What he's politely tryin' to say is that I stick my nose in where it don't belong," she explained with a chuckle.

"What I mean is, you worry about everyone but yourself."

"Who me?" she said curtly with a grin. "You're more guilty of that than I am….still gonna save the world, are ya?"

"OK, OK…..now I've got two women giving me lectures," he sighed.

Rose awarded Scully with an approving stare and asked with surprise, "You lecture him too?"

"All the time," she answered with sparkling eyes and a smirk.

Mulder, who was beginning to feel like the odd man out, interrupted the conversation, "pardon me ladies but could you at least talk about me *behind* my back? Hey Rose, you need any donations for the shelter?"

"Nah, I got this research company that's gonna give me $150.00 just to brush my teeth, what's left of them anyway. Ain't that somethin'? I didn't know guinea pigs made so much money…" She nodded her head in disbelief, grabbed his hand and squeezed as he palmed her a twenty.

"It was good to see ya again, Rose….take care of yourself." He and Scully turned to leave when Rose tentatively grasped Dana's sleeve and whispered, "he's a "keeper," honey…I hope you care. If you do, you'll ride his butt when he needs it cause a lot of the time he don't know what's good for him."

Dana smiled in mild amusement. "I think I can handle it."

Rose raised an eyebrow and replied, "I bet you can."

Dana said good bye, ran up the steps and met Mulder by the door. "What was that all about," she asked quizzically.

"I helped her out once, a long time ago."

"Looks like you still are……I saw what you did."

"What did you see?" His voice raised in pitch and cracked faintly.

"I saw you give her the twenty."

His face flushed as he bowed his head. "What's a twenty? For me it's a pizza and a beer, for her….it's a weeks worth of groceries."

A corner of her mouth turned up in a half-smile.

"Mulder, you're a "soft- touch"."

"OK, so I'm an easy mark and I'll never get rich."

"How many "bums" do you support, anyway?" she asked facetiously.

"They're not "bums," Dana," he said with a slight tinge of resentment in his voice. "At least most of them aren't. Most are just decent human beings who for one reason or another got dealt a raw deal in life and with the throw of the dice "we" could be "them". They've fallen through the cracks, Scully…They're rejected by government programs supposedly designed to help them and ignored by a society that doesn't want to even acknowledge their existence."

The conversation continued as they walked down the hall and into the office. "I mean, take this case for instance. Nobody would've even looked into it had it not been for the number and similarities of the deaths. Dana, these people are dropping like flies all over DC and no one seemed to even give a damn because they were itinerant. Are we beginning to think of them as "expendable" because if we are, then I'm gonna have to rethink my definitions of what it means to be *human*. Are our lives any less *important* just because we didn't discover the cure for cancer or create world peace—when does a *life* cease to be viable?"

He looked up to see her smiling at him and realized that he'd gone off on another tangent.

"You know Mulder, that's exactly what I can't stand about you."

His face took on a hurt expression. "What?"

"Your total *lack* of fervent expression," she commented drolly.

He raised his head slowly and gave her a side-long glance containing just a hint of roguishness, then just sighed.

"Sometimes, Dana, life really *bites*, ya know that?"

"Face it, Mulder, you can't save the whole world."

"Maybe not, but I can save my little piece of it, can't I? I have to believe that one person can make a difference, else I wouldn't be here…doing this, would I?"

"Well, I think if you're gonna start saving your piece of the world, we'd better start with these coroner reports."

"How many does that make, now?" he asked.

"Twenty-two victims within the last two weeks."

"Can I see the reports? I know you could give me an accurate overview but I can't remember them verbatim if I don't see them and the information could be vital to the case." She handed him the reports and he scanned each one as the written images imprinted themselves permanently upon his memory. Watching this process had always intrigued her and she had often wondered exactly how much information the human mind could absorb and store before it "overloaded," so to speak.

He finished the last of the coroners' reports, handed them to her and repeated the exercise with the police reports, then sat silently for several minutes in quiet contemplation.

"Dana, none of these victims should be dead… in each case, the cause of death was unknown. They just *died*. No poison, viruses, bacteria, disease, injury, or obvious sign of violence were indicated." He gazed at her in puzzlement and asked, "How can people just *die*?"

"They don't," she replied with conviction. "Just because they didn't find a reason for the deaths, it doesn't mean that there wasn't one."

Sometimes her steadfast belief that all things had a logical and scientific explanation really irked him, for he had often found through personal experience that "some" things, at least, defied both logic and reason. On the other hand, she had proven to be his balance and anchor, if you will, for he had to admit that there were times when he needed an objective point of view. He conceded that he did occasionally have a tendency to willingly accept belief based more on faith than fact and Dana, more times than not, kept him from going off the deep end. He got up, crossed the room and casually sat on the corner of her desk as he gently pulled the file she was reading from her hands and plopped it unceremoniously on top of the computer. Startled, she shot him a questioning stare.

"I am more than positive that if there is *anyone* who could figure out what the cause of these deaths was, it would be you, but right now I have a hunch that perhaps *how* they died may not be quite as important as *why*……According to the police reports, the majority of deaths occurred in the area between Lincoln Ave and Franklin Street. I think we should make a little visit to the area, talk to a few people, and ask a few questions….*someone* must know *something*. Bring your reports if you want….you can go over them on the way."

Well that was short and terse, she thought, just like his manner had been most of the morning when he had addressed her directly. Maybe his shorts were too tight or somebody stole his Twinkies. She got up, grabbed the report off the computer and the remaining ones off the desk and headed quickly for the door which he held open for her.

She observed him as he drove in silence. Something was eating at him, for he'd been aloof and distant toward her all day, except for the brief moment this morning when she had made him laugh in spite of himself. The silence was deafening and she was not about to let it go on.

"That's it," she said in frustration, "pull the car over right now."

"What?"

"I said, pull the car over."

"What's the matter?" he asked with concern as he drove to the side of the road and parked.

"You're what's the matter."

"Huh?"

"You've not been yourself all day….what gives?"

"Nothing."

"Don't tell me "nothing". I know you better than that, so what's your problem?"

He squirmed uncomfortably in his seat, stared out of the window and replied in a hushed voice, "I couldn't sleep last night so I drove over to see if you were still awake….you were but you had company and I didn't want to *intrude*. I mean it's none of my business who you invite over at one in the morning."

"Oh, so that's it," she said in a somewhat annoyed tone. "You saw Brian and automatically jumped to the wrong conclusions and got all bent out of shape. Jesus, Mulder sometimes you really piss me off. Are you that insecure? Not every woman is a "Phoebe Greene," ya know."

This last remark cut like a knife and upon seeing the hurt in his eyes, she immediately regretted the words. This is not what she had intended, for he was the *last* person she would ever want to hurt.

Ouch, he thought, go for the jugular, Dana. She's right, though,…you *know* she's right. Don't blow everything, Mulder, just because some bitch messed with your head ten years ago.

He lowered his eyes and took a deep breath. "You're right," he murmured in a low voice. "You're absolutely right and I'm sorry."

She reached up with her hand and tenderly brushed back the stray hair that had fallen into his eyes again.

"Brian is my god son's father. The boy became ill last night and he came over to pick up a couple of prescriptions that I wrote for him so they wouldn't have to take him to the emergency room."

Mulder slouched down in the seat a little ashamed and a lot embarrassed. If he could've shrunk down to the size of a pin head or even disappeared, he would've but as it was he could only endure and apologize.

"You sure know how to make a guy feel "microscopic" don't you? " he asked in an apologetic voice.

"Fox Mulder, you may be a lot of things…..but "microscopic" definitely isn't one of them," she snickered. She thought she should let him "stew" for a while but she couldn't stand to see him unhappy so she decided to let it drop.

"Forget it, OK? We have work to do."

They spent the better part of the afternoon trying to talk to people who wanted nothing to do with them. They were the "establishment" and therefore in the eyes of these displaced persons, the *enemy*. After four hours of fruitless inquiries, they finally gave up and returned to the office.

"Well, that was a total waste of time," he grumbled in frustration. "They're not gonna talk to *us* and I *know* they know something. The streets are zipped up tighter than a clam shell." He looked at his watch…"Geez, it's four o' clock and I've gotta go."

He picked up a small sports bag behind his desk and sprinted toward the door.

"Where are you going?"

"I've sort of got an appointment at 4:30 and if I don't get goin' now, I'm gonna be late."

"Like I said, where?"

"Langly Park."

"What's at Langly Park?"

"Soccer."

"Soccer?" she asked in surprise.

"Yeah, I sometimes help out a friend of mine and coach his team. After the practice today, the Georgetown Alumni arranged for an exhibition game. See Scully, I do have a "life" after all."

"What kind of team is it? College, High School, what?"

"Mac had some trouble getting help and since I owed him one and I played at Oxford, I kinda got volunteered."

"You're avoiding my question….you still haven't told me what kind of team it is."

"High school girl's soccer team," he mumbled inaudibly.

"What?"

"High school girl's soccer team," he stated plainly, daring her to make a comment.

" I think I'd like to tag along on this one….This I've gotta see," she remarked wickedly.

"Just keep the cheering down to a minimum," he joked as they hastily left the building.

At the field, Mulder introduced her to Winston MacConnel, a tall, muscular man of about fourty years.

"Ms Scully, are you planning to stay for the exhibition game? It should prove to be ….interesting. We're playing the University of Maryland Alumni and we've tied for the last three years. Perhaps with Mulder's help, this year we'll win. Have you ever seen him play before?"

"No, can't say that I have."

"Well, I'd say you're in for a great game, cause he's one hell of a good player. What he lacks in "bulk," he makes up for in speed, skill and an intense determination….the man doesn't *like* to lose, which is why I conned him into helping me out. After all, it's all for charity you know. Well, I gotta go change too. You can sit in those front bleachers with the team members' families."

She strolled across the field to the bleachers directly in front of her and sat down next to a talkative girl about twelve years old.

"Hi, my name's Julie, what's yours," she asked between the popping bubble gum.

"Dana."

"My sister's practicing tonight….you got a sister here too?"

"No, a friend of mine is playing in the game afterwards. So does your sister like playing this game?"

"I don't know if she likes it that much or not, but she sure enough likes the coach's friend. Katie says he's "hot" and has a cute butt too. He helps Coach Mac sometimes…and he's real good but most of the time the girls just act dumb and don't listen. He keeps tellin' em' to watch the "damn" ball but all they ever do is watch him."

Dana chuckled to herself, remembering her own high school crushes and told Julie, "You can tell Katie at least she has good taste."

She spied Mulder as he walked onto the field with Mac and the girls and had to agree that the soccer garb suited him…he wore it well. They set up the equipment, and divided the group in half for skills training. Dana watched with amusement as Mulder tried to maintain some kind of order among his group of giggling adolescent females, while at the same time patiently conducting the necessary drills. He appeared totally oblivious to his effect on them and she had to give him high marks for maintaining his cool cause she'd have been banging heads by now.

The practice ended and the game began as she watched with fascination. This sport was a lot rougher than she had envisioned it, for in the first half alone, he'd been tripped, knocked to the ground twice, elbowed, and of all things —kicked in the face (how that happened, she still wasn't quite sure). He gave as good as he got, however, and managed to "head in" one goal and kick in another. Both teams were fiercely competitive and at the end of the second half the score was still tied until Mulder, seeing that Mac was open, passed him the ball to set up. Mac in turn, slammed it into the goal just as Mulder was slammed to the ground. He knew he'd fallen wrong and vaguely heard the whistle blow through a red haze of pain. Damn leg, he cursed to himself as he tried to shake it off and get up, but it disobeyingly collapsed beneath him and he dropped to the ground like a sack of rocks. It had taken a couple of months of therapy to get the leg back to normal after a bullet had shattered his femur and damaged the surrounding muscle and tissue…..now, it was going to give him trouble again. Shit. He heard far away voices and felt strong hands lift him to his feet as they helped him limp unsteadily to the bench.

"Did we win?" he inquired groggily.

"Yeah man, we won. Thanks pal, now I owe *you* one," Mac laughed as he slapped Mulder on the back. "You gonna be OK?"

"That's *my* line." Mulder heard the familiar, cross voice and cringed, for he could tell by the tone that this was not going to be an accolade for a game well played…a job well done. This was the tone reserved for "what the hell are trying to do…kill yourself etc., etc., etc.?" He did seem to get hurt a lot more often than he used to in the last few years….maybe there *is* such a thing as being "accident prone." Rationalizing the situation, he came to the conclusion that since this wasn't a new injury–just an old one acting up–that it shouldn't really count anyway. Sounded logical to him.

Of course what sounded like logic to him, sounded like so much stupidity to her and she quite elegantly voiced her opinion to that affect.

Dana crossed over to the chest, filled a plastic bag with ice and slapped it none to gently over the visible scar on his leg, causing him to grimace and jump a few inches off the bench.

"You didn't tell me this was going to be a recreation of ancient Roman gladiatorial combat. The way you guys play, you'd think this was the blasted Coliseum……" She took a deep breath and sighed. "I was proud of you….I don't know too much about the game but you looked real good….I just don't like to see you get hurt." She placed her hand lightly on his shoulder and squeezed gently.

"Come on, let's get you somewhere a little more comfortable. You need to stay off the leg, at least for tonight."

He stared up at her in surprise. This was not her usual approach. He had prepared himself for the usual lecture and had his rebuttal arguments all in order….maybe she was trying to throw him off. It worked. He didn't know what to say or how to react and he found himself at a total loss for words…..Blast her.

She helped him hobble into her apartment and eased him gently onto the couch, placing the extra pillows under his leg for elevation, then went into the kitchen. He found the remote and went through the channels until he found an old classic repeat of "Creature Feature" that he didn't think he'd seen before. Putting the remote down on the end table, he discovered a small bag of mixed seeds so he grabbed a handful and shoved them in his mouth…they were a little different than what he was used to but all in all, not too bad….and he was hungry. By the time Dana returned with another ice pack, he'd practically eaten the whole bag. She entered the room, stopped suddenly and stifled a laugh, then sidled over to the sofa sat down next to him and placed the ice on his leg.

"What are you doing," she asked with exaggerated patience.

"Watching TV, why?"

"No, I mean with that bag.."

"I was just having a snack…I didn't think you'd mind…"

"Oh, I don't mind at all but "Ragman" might."

"Who's 'Ragman'?"

"The parrot who's food you just ate."

With his mouth full of seeds, he stared down at the bag in his lap and upon failing to find a descreet way to spit, swallowed noisily and coughed, "I didn't know you had a parrot."

"I don't….it's the neighbor's bird. I'm watching it for a couple days and now he'll starve because you ate his food." She overdid the pout for effect.

He took this information in stride and replied with a sheepish grin, "I'd have shared with him."

"Dana, did you find anything remotely unusual, "medically" in any of those coroner reports today…something about them bothers me and I just can't seem to pinpoint it."

"That sure was out of the blue."

"Not really. I've been working on them in my head all evening and something about them just isn't right. I *can* think about more than one thing at a time you know."

"I don't remember anything unusual except for the obvious 'lack of cause. Why are you thinking about this now? It's getting late and you need to rest, not think about things that can wait until tomorrow."

"Can't help it….the information's there, so I think."

As she got up from the couch, he winced in pain.

"Hurts, huh?" she asked.

"Yeah."

She went into her bedroom and he noticed she'd returned with that damn little black bag. He hated that bag…he sometimes wished that little black bag would fall into a big "black hole" and appear somewhere across the universe in another dimension far away from him. She pulled out what he was afraid she was going to pull out, two nasty looking syringes. Oh Shit, not those goddamn needles. Sometimes there were advantages to having a doctor as a partner….this was not one of those times.

"What are they for?" He eyed them and swallowed nervously.

"One is a painkiller and the other one is a muscle relaxer."

"What is it with you and…..those *things*? Haven't you ever heard of aspirin and beer?"

"Why are you always such a baby? Roll over and drop em.'"

"Dana, ordinarily I'd love nothing more than to comply, but….."

She interrupted, "Do you want to be able to walk in the morning or not?"

"Oh geez…..Ow…."

"Don't I get any compensation at all?" he asked drowsily. Boy, this stuff worked fast, he thought dizzily…..wonder if it comes in six packs.

"Compensation huh?" She bent over and kissed him long and passionately, then pulled away and studied his face for a response.

"I can live with that," he slurred dreamily, then passed out in her arms.

"Trust me," she replied ruefully to his sleeping figure, "Not tonight Sherlock, right now you need sleep more than you need *that.*" She lowered his shoulders slowly to the couch, propped his leg up, covered him with a blanket, and turned off "Creature Feature" along with the lights, then went to bed.

The next morning Dana followed a rested and slightly limping Mulder into the office and as he went to his desk, she made a beeline for the coffee pot. For some reason she just needed a shot of caffeine to get her going today.

"Hey Mulder, do you want any coffee?" she called out. She waited but there was no answer…".Mulder, do you want some coffee?" Well great, now he's ignoring me or maybe he's just gone deaf. She stormed into the room and stopped abruptly in the doorway….something was wrong. He stood by his desk with eyes closed, obviously distraught and biting a tightly clenched fist as the folder he held in his other hand dropped to the floor and came to rest at his feet.

"Mulder, what is it?….what's wrong?"

He slowly opened his eyes, removed his hand from his mouth and replied shakily, "There's been another death." He pointed to the report on the floor and walked away from it. She bent over, picked it up and read the name: Roselyn Bellman…Oh God, no..not Mulder's friend. She walked quietly up behind him and broke the "office" policy they'd agreed upon by quietly hugging his waist in sympathy and comfort.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," she said, knowing that the words were grossly inadequate but not knowing what else to say.

His eyes clouded and he bowed his head. "She wasn't always homeless, you know. She and her husband came to this country in 1952 and started a business in 54' that lasted for thirty years. They had a good life together until he got cancer in 82' and the medical bills bled them dry… after the insurance maxed out, they sold the house, then the business. By the time he died, there was barely enough money left to bury him and Rose ended up on the street. All that work…and all for what? So she could die in a gutter off Lincoln Ave?" His eyes pleaded with her for an explanation, a reason….anything but she didn't have any more answers than he did.

"Scully, will you do something for me?"

"You want me to do the autopsy?"

He nodded his head gratefully in affirmation. He couldn't explain the odd request and didn't fully understand exactly why he'd made it, except that it would be the last thing he would be able to do for her…that and seeing that she was buried beside her husband. "I know it's not logical and maybe not even very professional, but I just wanted it to be done by somebody…..who would care."

Dana ran her hand lightly down his arm and squeezed his hand in understanding, then led him down the hallway toward the small sterile room. The depth of this man's sensitivity never ceased to amaze her. With this one small gesture of tenderness, he had revealed more to her about affection and loyalty than *any* of the self proclaimed purveyors of "truth" and "love" that seemed to fill the airways these days. No, he wasn't perfect…god knows he drove her crazy, but he was honest and genuine and she decided in the long run, that *imperfection* suited her just fine.

He sat waiting in the hall while Scully went to work in autopsy room. There was one more thing that he decided he would do for Rose and that would be to find out who or what had put an end to her life. *How* he would do this….he wasn't quite sure, for he knew that the homeless people involved wouldn't talk to him, Scully, or anyone else even remotely resembling an authority. If they wouldn't talk to him, who *would* they talk to? A thought flashed through his head like a lightning bolt…they'd talk to each other….Mulder you've been a fool, he chastised himself, suddenly deciding what he had to do.

Dana emerged from the room exhausted and sat down on the bench beside Mulder, as his faced questioned her findings. She shook her head slowly .

"I don't know, Mulder. My report is the same as all the others as far as the possible common, outside causes of death but….unlike my colleagues, I took example from you and tried looking for the "uncommon", unusual, and even "bizarre" possibilities and guess what?"

"What?" he asked, instantly becoming alert and leaning forward in anticipation.

"Well, it seems that everyone else centered on outside causes…foreign substances that shouldn't be present etc.,then I considered that maybe the culprit could be something internal, something that should be there, that wouldn't show up on a toxicology screening because it wouldn't be considered a toxin."

"AND?" he asked impatiently.

"I discovered *huge* amounts of adrenaline in the bloodstream…I know this is going to sound really weird but it was if she had been "scared to death". I also noted that she had undergone a recent surgical procedure to remove her ovaries. However, that isn't an unusual operation for a woman her age."

"It would have been for Rose," he replied cryptically. "She could never afford an operation and she never mentioned it to me."

"Mulder, it's not exactly the kind of operation that you'd go tell your young male acquaintances about.."

"You didn't know Rose….Every ailment she'd had in the last ten years, was dutifully explained in great detail to whoever would listen." "So what do you think is going on here?"

"I don't know, but I'm gonna damn well find out. Dana, can you take me by my place…I have a few things to work out, then I'm gonna need you to drop me off somewhere. No questions asked….OK?"

"You know I can't promise that."

"OK, how about just promising not to give me any grief about what I've gotta do."

"Which is?"

"We'll talk about it later," he replied lost in thought.

He spoke very little as she drove him to his apartment, and she didn't press him for conversation. She knew the look and the mood….His mind was working overtime again which meant he'd decided on a plan of action and was mentally working out the details of whatever bizarre approach he'd come up with. She was almost afraid to ask, so she didn't….God help her, he'd tell her when he was ready.

She pulled up in front of his apartment where he got out of the car and proceeded to walk with a perceptible limp up to the front door to check his mail, but before she pulled away he waved to her and shouted.

"Give me about an hour, OK?"

She waved back and drove away. What in the hell was he up to this time? She was almost certain that since he didn't let her in on the secret, it was probably something dangerous that she wouldn't approve of… and that frightened her.

An hour later she returned to his apartment, knocked on the door and waited to hear his voice. When no response was forthcoming, she tried the door, found it unlocked and ventured inside, picking her way through the clutter.

"Mulder?" she called hesitantly. "Mulder, are you in here?"

"Yeah," he called from the bedroom," Just a second, don't move…I'll be right out."

He shuffled out into the hall and stood in the light. Her jaw nearly hit the floor, for he stood before her in the crummiest looking set of clothes that she'd seen in a decade and he looked like he'd hadn't bathed in a week. Oh Mulder, she thought, you're headed for a rubber room this time for sure.

"Well, Whatta ya think? It's kinda like "Mad" magazine's version of "GQ". It's what all the really stylish vagrants are wearin' these days….bitchin' huh?"

"You've lost your mind…where in God's name do you think you're going in that get up?"

"Starlight Ballroom?"

"Mulder, be serious, just what do you think you're doing?"

"Damn it, Dana, those people are too scared to talk to us….but they will talk to each other, so I'll just be one of the "others" for a while. It'll work, I know it will."

"You're not going down there alone. It's just too dangerous….you're a preppie Oxford graduate, so what do you know about surviving on the streets?"

"Don't think that you're coming with me….I know just as much about it as you do, but I can look ten times grundgier, act twenty times grosser and Dana, you just smell too damn good for the part. Besides, I need someone on the outside in case I run into trouble."

"Mulder, you don't smell either."

"Give me a couple days….I'm working on it."

She smiled in spite of her misgivings and commented dryly, "No one will ever believe you…your hands are much too clean."

He casually inspected both hands, then walked over to the potted plant by the window, shoved both hands into the dark, rich, soil, and wiped the excess off on his shirt and grinned wickedly.

"Always wanted to do that. Oh, I almost forgot." Taking his weapon from beneath the tattered trench coat, he opened his desk drawer and placed it inside.

"You can't be going out there unarmed…Mulder, that's really dumb."

"Ok, how many *bums* do you know who carry Glocks? I mean most of them can't even afford food."

"Point taken, but I don't have to like it, now do I?"

She drove him to the corner of Franklin Street and let him out of the car. As he bent through the window to say good bye, she grasped his hand tightly and asked, "did you bring any money for food? Where are you going to sleep?"

He gazed deeply into her eyes and said reassuringly, "OK, mom, I brought twenty, one dollar bills and I'll find someplace to sleep…if I need to. I'm a big boy….can I go play now?" He smiled teasingly. "Oh, meet me here tomorrow afternoon…same time, same place." He brought her hand to his lips, kissed it in knightly fashion and ducked out of the window. She watched him slowly saunter down the street and heard him say as he rounded the corner and vanished from sight, "Once more into the breach, dear friends."

She didn't like this…no, she didn't like this at all. Fighting the temptation to follow him, she started the car and returned to her apartment in an exceedingly anxious mood.

The air was filled with a combination of noxious odors that he recognized but was unaccustomed to smelling on a regular basis. The offensive stench of urine from the alleyways, the odious scent of rotting garbage and filth that overflowed the dumpsters and spilled into the street combined with the stale smell of alcohol and vomit to make his stomach lurch. Perhaps he was not as prepared for this as he had thought, but he was committed to this endeavor and he'd follow through. He traveled down Franklin Street to the Hobo encampment that he'd been to earlier, beneath the Harding St. overpass and told several people that he was searching for Rose Bellman. The first two men he'd asked were from out of town, the next three people refused to even look at him and the woman he'd approached backed away from him in fear. Discouraged, he sat down and leaned his back up against one of the overpass supports and placed in head in his hands. Maybe Dana was right…maybe he couldn't be convincing enough to pull this off. Lying wasn't exactly his forte', in fact she had told him more than once that he'd be terrible as an undercover agent for just that reason. Subterfuge always went against his basic nature and the guilt he felt in its performance seemed to surface unconsciously in his body language and expression. He sighed in frustration and anger…anger at life's seeming unfairness….anger at wasted lives…needless deaths…his own inadequacies that he felt prevented him from solving this case. Lost in his thoughts, he failed to hear the approaching footsteps that halted before him until the voice brought him back to reality.

"Heard you were looking for Rose," the voice mumbled cautiously. "What did you want with her?"

Mulder looked up slowly, into the face of a man of about fifty. His face though dirty and whiskered, wore the look of distinguished intelligence and his tattered clothes seemed outlandishly inconsistent with his bearing of authority.

"She's an old friend who told me that if I ever came here, to look her up…said she'd help out if she could…I never thought I'd have to take her up on the offer, until now," he replied with a trace of bitterness.

"My name is Doctor Jay," he said, offering his hand to Mulder. "You haven't been at this too long have you, son?"

Mulder stood, grasped the man's hand in a firm handshake and replied honestly, "No, I haven't. It's that obvious, huh? Just lost my job two weeks ago…opened my mouth when I should have kept it shut and now I'm out on my ass. I don't plan to make this a living if I can help it…I just need some time to get back on my feet and I thought maybe Rose could help."

"Well, I have some bad news for you, my boy….Rose died yesterday. I'm sorry."

Mulder let the sorrow he felt earlier in the day show in his eyes and in his manner. It was a convincing display, mainly because his feelings were genuine and he didn't require any acting ability to express them. Dr. Jay patted him gently on the back in sympathy and made a decision.

"Listen, by the way, what's your name? Can't keep calling you "son"."

Mulder thought for a moment. He couldn't use Fox or Mulder because he'd been around here yesterday and his name wasn't exactly "common"…someone might remember. He could use his middle name, although he hated it as much as "Fox". The only person who ever used that one to excess was his aunt Carol, who insisted that a good, solid, Scottish name should never go to waste…Shit.

"Ian," he said disdainfully.

"I take it that you're not to pleased with your name."

"No, I can't say that I'm exactly *thrilled* with it."

Dr. Jay laughed and asked politely, "Since you genuinely appear to have been a friend of Rose, I'll take you to her "place". It's not much but I don't believe anyone has been by there yet so her things may still be intact. Perhaps there will be something among her personal items that may be of some use to you."

"Thank you," Mulder replied gratefully. "I would appreciate that very much."

Dr. Jay was an unusual man and certainly unlike any "vagrant" that he had ever met. The man spoke with impeccable English, carried himself with regal dignity, and appeared to be unbelievably intelligent. What the hell was this man doing on the streets?

Mulder was led down Franklin Street to Lincoln Ave and then down an alley to a large cardboard box across the street from a deserted market. He stuck his head inside the box to discover Rose's collection of treasures…a program from an opera..candlestick holders..various pieces of costume jewelry, the Christmas cards he'd given her for the last three years…the small shelter was filled with momentos of her life. Regret pulled at his soul and tears filled his eyes. Maybe he should have done more for her…Come on Mulder, pull yourself together, why do you always get so damned involved? He sat on the ground and began sifting through her things, maintaining in his mind that he was looking at "evidence" not pieces of someone's life, when he came across the business card. What would she be doing with a business card? He turned it over in his hand and read it out loud.

"Vestor Laboratories, New Products for a New Age. 1947 Jefferson Ave. Washington, DC."

He put the card in his pocket, remembering that Rose had mentioned that a research company was paying her to use some product. It was probably nothing, but his instincts told him to check it out anyway…and he'd always trusted them in the past, why stop now. He backed out of the box and looked for Dr. Jay but he had disappeared as quickly as he'd appeared at the encampment. It was dark now and he was getting hungry despite the tumult in his stomach from the unsavory sights and sounds around him, so he headed toward a diner he'd spotted on the way over here.

It was a small place, but it appeared to be clean… probably a lot cleaner than he was at the moment, he thought wryly. He walked in and asked to use their bathroom, for he really needed to wash his hands….among other things and was rudely told by the waitress that the restroom was for paying customers only. He stared at her with strained patience and hoarsely croaked, "I *am* a paying customer." He pulled out the wad of ones and showed them to her. "Now, will you please point me in the right direction to the restroom and get me two hot dogs with everything?" The waitress pointed to the far corner of the room, turned abruptly with a harumph and placed the order. He returned to the counter feeling a little better, paid for the dogs and sat down on a stool.

"Sir, you can't eat that here," she said in an uppity tone.

"Why not?" he asked, slightly perturbed.

"It's bad for business."

"Bad for business?" What the hell was she talking about?

"People don't wanna see *derelicts* eating in here…it makes em' think the place is dirty."

His face adopted an unreadable expression as he stood up and announced to the waitress in a slightly raised voice,"Well, geez, lady, why would anybody think that? I know….maybe you think that I might pick my nose and wipe it on the counter….or spit on the floor…" he turned to leave, but couldn't resist one last retort and looked over his shoulder as he walked to the door….." Hell, I might even *Fart* on the way out." He slammed the door behind him, took a bite of the hot dog and made his way toward the Harding Street overpass. He didn't like being a non-person.

He walked as quickly as he could, for he had a strange sensation of being followed and wanted to get somewhere where at least he wasn't alone. Seeing the campfire lights in the distance, he picked up his pace as he passed another alleyway. Suddenly there was a blur in the darkness and he felt several hands slam his body into the brick wall just inside the alley, smashing his face into the rough, unyielding surface. Stunned, he slid to the ground on hands and knees where a solidly booted foot impacted several times with his stomach and rib cage. Warm blood filled his mouth as they took the remaining money from his pocket and just when he thought they would finish him off, he heard a familiar voice yell for them to stop, accompanied by a strange whining sound, then all was silent as he drifted off into a state of limbo.

The sun's warmth upon his face slowly brought him back to consciousness as he opened his left eye and slowly tried to sit up. Oh shit, that was a mistake, he thought painfully, and brought a hand up tentatively to touch his face and then his forehead. The whole right side was ballooning, especially his right eye and his mouth. It seems that a tooth had gone through his tongue and into his bottom lip. His chest hurt when he breathed, his stomach was sore, and his leg ached unmercifully, from the dampness, no doubt. He thought seriously about giving up, then about Rose and all the other nameless, invisible people who would die if he didn't find an answer to this puzzle….No, he wouldn't give up…couldn't give up…the truth *is* out there and it was his responsibility…his moral obligation to find it.

He surveyed the area and discovered that he was back at the encampment. How in the hell did he get back here? Spying a pile of blood-soaked rags at his feet, he was wondering who had cared for him during the night, when a voice boomed into his left ear from behind his shoulder.

"Well, Ian my boy, it seems you've finally decided to wake up after all, eh? You had me worried there for a while."

Mulder had jumped at the sound of his voice, for the man had once again approached him without detection. I've got to be more alert, he thought, I must be getting "sloppy".

"What happened, Dr. Jay? I don't quite remember."

"My you are a "newbie" aren't you? It appears that you were "rolled," quite effectively I might add, in the alley just a block away from here. My dear Ian, there are many thing you'll need to learn if you expect to survive here, two of which are the following: Number one; If you have any money, never show it to anyone–you never know who's watching and Number two: *Never* walk these streets alone after dark. I found you in the alley, brought you back here, and cleaned you up a little….you certainly were a sight."

"How did you manage to move me?" he asked, incredulously. Mulder studied him openly. Doc was only about 5'4" and weighed maybe 120 lbs., while he was 6'1" and was nearly sixty pounds heavier.

"I'm a lot stronger than I look and I didn't have to carry you very far."

"Well, in any case, I owe you. Thanks."

"Don't mention it. I am certain that you would have done the same for me."

Mulder reached into his pocket and pulled out the business card that he'd found among Rose's things.

"By the way, do you know anything about this research company? Rose told me that they pay good money for people to test their products."

"Take my advice, Ian, pass on the offer."

"Why?"

"Let's just say that I don think they're what they appear to be and leave it at that. Forget about it."

"Whatever you say, Doc." He placed the card back into his pocket and dropped the subject for the time being.

Doc took a pot from the fire and poured an amber-colored liquid into a cup and handed it to Mulder.

"Here, drink this tea and I"ll guarantee you'll feel much better in about twenty minutes."

"What kind of tea is it?"

"Just my own special herbal blend," he said mysteriously.

Mulder brought the cup to his swollen lips and took a small sip. It had a sweet, pleasant taste and warmed him from within, in such a way that he drank the entire cup. He turned to offer his appreciation to Doc only to find that the little man had vanished again, leaving nothing behind except a dark pair of sunglasses which Mulder immediately placed over his bulging and discolored eye. He got up very slowly and discovered that he did indeed feel much better….he'd have to find out what was in that stuff cause he could use a truckload of it.

Much of his day was spent casually asking the local population about the vagrants that had died over the last two weeks and one name kept reappearing, linking these people into a common thread. They had all been human guinea pigs for Vestor Laboratories. The afternoon went by quickly and he set out down Franklin Street to meet Scully. Whatever was in the tea had worn off several hours ago and he was beginning to feel pretty ragged again but he was determined to conceal that fact from her.

She pulled the car up to the curb on Franklin Street, rolled up her window and locked the doors as she sat impatiently awaiting his arrival. A vague uneasiness had possessed her ever since she'd left him here yesterday afternoon. He was late….she glanced at her watch for the umpteenth time and then back down the street and sighed with relief as she saw his tall figure moving in her direction. Something about him seemed different. Even from a distance, she could tell his limp was more pronounced than it had been the day before and his normal erect bearing was slightly hunched forward in fatigue…. or pain? Why had she let him go through with this? Face it Dana, you couldn't have done anything to stop him…not once he'd made up that incredibly pigheaded mind of his. She got out of the car and met him on the sidewalk.

"What happened to your face?" she asked with concern. "And what's with the dark shades?"

"I tripped and fell," he lied guiltily.

"The glasses are from a friend…the sun was really bright today."

"Mulder, it's nearly 5:00…the sun is going *down*."

He purposely ignored the last remark and abruptly changed the subject. Pulling the business card out, he handed it to her, saying, "Listen Dana, I believe that this research company is somehow involved with all of these deaths because the only common denominator that I could find was that all of the victims were in one way or another connected to *this* research company. I need to know *everything* that you can possibly dig up about it…who owns it, what kind of research they do, what they eat for breakfast if necessary. See if you can get a position on the "inside." If you have to, talk to Frohike or Byer at the Lone Gunman. They can get you an ID and forged credentials faster than the Bureau. Meanwhile, I'll work on it from this end…meet Vestor Lab's *newest* guinea pig."

Without warning, she reached up suddenly and snatched the glasses from his face before he could move to stop her.

"Jesus Christ, Mulder," she stared in shock. "That did *not* come from a damn fall and you know it. What the hell *really* happened?"

"OK…I guess, I kinda got mugged, " he rasped, stifling a cough.

"*Kinda? I'd say from the looks of that….it was *definite* not *kinda*… You need to get medical attention. That's a nasty cut."

"It'll have to wait. This is important and I have a feeling we're running out of time."

"Do you realize what kind of infection you could get in this filth with an open wound?"

"I'll be careful," he replied dryly.

"You mean like you were about getting mugged?" she fired back belligerently.

"OK, fine..give me a band aid. Look I'm sorry, I'll take care of it when I get the time….it's been an *experience.*"

"No, *I'm* sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you, it's just that you worry the hell out of me sometimes and I don't like the feeling." She stepped forward to embrace him but when he retreated from her a couple of steps, she glimpsed at him in confused surprise.

"Uh Dana, Hey I'm pretty *ripe* right now," he ventured in a flustered tone. "Maybe you might want a rain check on the hug. At this point, I'm beginning to gross *myself* out," he commented wryly as he ran his hand over the stubble on his face.

She inched her way toward him, casually sniffing the air…".Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum,"….she looked seductively into his eyes….".look out Mulder, here I come." She slid her arms around him in a comforting embrace and softly kissed his swollen lips. There was something persistently satisfying in having him here, *safely* locked in her arms…. out of harm's way and she secretly wished that she could keep him that way indefinitely, but knowing that to be an impossibility, she settled for times like these to get her through.

"You're right," she said ruefully, "You stink. After this is over, You're definitely gonna need a sound scrubbing, so make sure you come back in one piece….It's only fun, if your alive to enjoy it." She squeezed him tightly and though the pressure caused his ribs to explode in pain, he hid the grimace on his face in her hair and rested his cheek on top of her head.

"I'll be careful…I promise, but I have to do this."

"I know. I'll hold up my end, get the information and hope the Lone Gunman are as good at their job as you think they are."

He gazed at her longingly with his good eye and shuddered. He didn't want to return to the cold, lonely darkness, but that's where he was needed, so that's where he had to go.

"Gotta go," he muttered reluctantly. "Gotta get back before sunset." He felt his face gingerly and stated in a droll tone, "being a creature of the night has some real drawbacks in this area. Oh, Dana, can you loan me a few bucks. Since my involuntary donation to the local gang population, I seem to be without funds."

She eyed him with concern. "When's the last time you ate?"

"I had a couple bites of a hot dog last night before I threw them back up about twenty minutes later in an alley. Why?"

"Just eat something….odds are ten to one, your blood sugar levels have taken a nose-dive…don't think that I don't know why you eat those damn seeds all the time. Speaking of which….." She pulled a bag of sunflower seeds from her coat pocket and handed them to him. "Ragman says he doesn't mind sharing either," she quipped with a mischievous grin.

"What a bird," he replied in mock admiration and chuckled softly.

He took her small hand delicately within his own and squeezed gently, then turned and limped slowly down the street. She stood and watched his retreating form until he was no longer visible. God, she didn't want him to go back there.

Upon returning to the office, she began her investigation concerning "Vestor Laboratories" and soon discovered that it was a virtual maze of dead ends, dummy corporations, and multiple ownerships of questionable validity that were shrouded in secrecy. What had they stumbled into this time? She called in favors and finagled unauthorized information and still had only narrowed it down to four possible parent companies. She'd taken it as far as she knew how. It was time to enlist some unauthorized and in her opinion, unorthodox help. She finally relented and called Frohike at the Lone Gunman.

They seemed quite happy to hear from her and after hearing of her predicament, actually appeared to be ecstatic over what was for them a chance at a new and challenging contest of wit and hardware. Geez, they were an odd lot, but they were geniuses at whatever it was they did and they took information gathering to a higher level than anything that the Bureau could even hope for. She observed in amazement as they hacked their way into protected computer systems, forbidden files, and denied accesses, untill finally they narrowed down the electronic paper trail to its source.

Vestor Labs was in reality a research facility solely funded by questionable secret factions within the US government and was conducting experiments in "variant biogenetic cloning." What was meant by "variant," she wasn't exactly sure, but if it was buried this far underground, it couldn't be anything good.

They hacked their way into the "company" personnel files and added Dana's fictitious name and profile, then assigned her as physician in charge of incoming applicants, relocating the existing physician to another facility, then provided her with the necessary ID and credentials. My God, she thought, on the wrong side of the law these guys could be deadly. She thanked them for their help and went home to spend a restless evening of speculation, resulting in a nearly sleepless night.

Mulder made it back to the camp just before the sun dipped below the horizon. He'd been afraid that he wouldn't make it in time because he'd stopped along the way to buy a couple cans of soup. Oh..well, that was brilliant, Mulder, you got the soup…now all you have to do is figure out a way to get the damn things open. He got out his pocket knife and after fifteen minutes of struggling, finally managed to open the cans and pour the contents into the pot in the fire as he poked up the flames with a stick.

Surveying the camp, he was astounded at the variety of people who were forced to reside here. About a hundred yards away from him was a woman living in an abandoned car with her two young daughters. The children, he thought angrily to himself. This was an injustice to them and to the future of humanity….They should be worrying about school, tests, and what games to play, not where they would find their next meal, how to stay warm, or who to fear. He made a decision that at least tonight, they wouldn't have to worry. As a lone figure observed him from the shadows, Mulder rose from his seated position, crossed the compound to the car, removed his coat and placed it around the children's' shoulders, then left the soup he'd made with their mother. He returned to his spot, leaned his back up against a cement support, with his knees up under his chin and his arms wrapped around his legs and let his head drop down to doze off into a restless sleep.

Upon waking the next morning, he found himself wrapped in an old blanket, with a steaming cup of the strange amber- colored tea by his side. He smelled its sweetness and drank it thirstily as if it contained life itself. It warmed him throughout and seemed to breathe new life into his tired, aching body….what was in this stuff? He suddenly realized that he hadn't eaten in over two days and the headaches and bad temper that usually accompanied a missed meal or two were pointedly absent now…..That's really weird, he thought absently.

"How are you feeling this fine morning, Ian my boy," the voiced boomed beside him as he started and dropped the empty cup to the ground. Lord, I wish he'd stop doing that…Where in the hell did he come from this time?

"I'm feeling pretty good. Thanks, Doc."

"You looked a little chilled last night so I loaned you a blanket. Lose your coat?"

"Not exactly. Let's just say someone else needed it more than I did."

"Still bent on seeing those "Vestor Labs" people, eh?" he asked, seeing the card in Mulder's hand.

"Yeah, I have to Doc….It's not the money. I really can't explain it right now."

"I understand completely, but do be careful." Doc handed him a mirror, and a sealed Bic razor. "Can't help you with the shaving cream, guess you'll just have to use plain soap."

"Hey Doc, than….ks.." Where'd he go? This was becoming too damn "spooky" even for him. Well, never look a gift horse…He peered at his reflection. At least his eye and lip were almost normal in appearance now except for the bruises so he soaped up his face and very carefully removed two days worth of stubble.

Scully entered the sterile looking building and signed in on the log. She'd discovered earlier this morning that her duties included giving physicals to new applicants and this would be her tenth one since lunch. She ambled into the examination room to discover it occupied by one lone figure. This form however, was not a stranger, for she was more than a little familiar with the profile and the carriage of the man in the room. She smiled with a certain wicked glee, for she knew that there was a part of this exam that he wasn't gonna like at all.

"Good afternoon Mr…..,McLeod?"

He turned in stunned surprise at hearing her voice. Frohike and the guys had outdone themselves this time. He thought that they'd be able to get her in as a research assistant or something, but as attending physician? Jesus, those guys had balls. He'd really have to commend them when he got out of this mess.

My name is Dr. Erickson and I'll be conducting your physical today." she said in a normal tone, then under her breath added, "Mulder, I don't know exactly what we've gotten into this time but whatever it is, it's big" Raising her voice again she ordered with authority, "Please remove your clothing and put on this hospital gown." She handed him the gown, which he eyed with particular loathing.

"Do I have to?"

"Yes," she hissed from between her teeth.

He disrobed, put on the gown and sat down heavily on the exam table.

"Ask me to cough and we're gonna fight," he told her testily. "OK, *Doctor,* now what?"

"Now, you get a physical, that's what." She had him where she wanted him and she wasn't about to let him weasel out of it this time. She'd *wanted* to check him out yesterday when she'd seen the condition of his face but he'd been elusive and she'd missed her chance….not this time, Sherlock.

She lowered the gown to just below his waist and gasped at the ugly purple discoloration that stretched from the middle of his ribcage to the middle of his abdomen.

"Why didn't you tell me about this yesterday?" she whispered angrily.

"Because there was nothing you could do about it and I didn't want you to worry, " he rasped quietly.

She continued the exam and was not at all happy with her findings.

"How'd I do?"

"Your blood pressure is almost as non-existent as your blood sugar levels, you probably have several cracked ribs, there's fluid in your lungs, and you're on your way to becoming dehydrated. Otherwise, you're as healthy as a horse. You still haven't eaten, have you?"

"No, well, I was going to and something came up and I didn't get a chance to, so …."

"According to your physical, you should be passed out on the floor and I personally can't see how you're able to stand on your feet."

"That good, huh?" He managed a lop-sided grin. "I feel just fine…am I done now?"

"Not quite." she said pursing her lips.

"They need a sample." She made a small snorting sound under her breath.

"I already went," he replied warily.

"Not that kind of sample."

"I give..what kind of sample are we talking about?"

She raised herself up on tip-toes and whispered in his ear.

"They want *what*?" His voice cracked as his face turned a bright beet red. "No, way…you're kidding, right?"

She slowly shook her head no and tried unsuccessfully to stifle a laugh, for the look on his face was priceless. She explained in a hushed whisper, "read the report I'm going to give you…when you find out what kind of research these people really conduct, it'll make sense."

"This is *WAY* above and beyond the call of duty," he whispered through clenched teeth.

"I'm sure you can "rise" to the occasion," she gasped, barely able to contain the laughter that was stuck in her throat.

"You're really enjoying this, aren't you?"

"Not at all…" She placed her hand over her mouth and stifled another laugh converting it into a fake cough in an effort to recover.

He bent over and brushed his lips past her ear and commented in a very hushed voice, "at least give me some *inspiration*," then in a semi-leering tone, "talk dirty to me, Scully…." She pulled him down and spoke into his other ear. His eyes took on an unnatural sparkle as both eyebrows climbed upward beneath the persistent stray hair, while his face took on a puzzled expression of disbelief.

"You can do that?" he asked dubiously.

She gave her head an affirmative nod as he closed the door to the lavatory.

He emerged from the room several minutes later and headed toward the pile of clothes on the chair across the room. "Can I get dressed now?" he grumbled.

"Sure…where is it?"

"*It* is in there, right next to a card that says, 'thinking of you,'" he snickered.

"You tell anyone about this and I'll change my name and move to Pittsburgh."

Dana handed him all the information that she had gathered thus far, as he pulled on the rest of his clothes. She grasped his elbow as he turned to leave.."be careful and EAT something. There's a small diner about two blocks away from here….pay it a visit." He smiled wistfully and walked down the hallway toward the exit. One large and two small forms watched him from the shadows.

Since he was her last scheduled appointment for the day, Dana gathered her things together, logged out and drove home to what she hoped would be an uneventful evening. She need time to catch her breath and interpret the information she'd discovered. That "time" was not forthcoming, however, for when she walked through her apartment door, she noticed her answering machine was flashing wildly and demanding her attention. Plopping down heavily on the couch, she depressed the play button and immediately recognized Byer's voice.

"Agent Scully, I hate to bother you but we have been digging into the "matter at hand" and have uncovered some pertinent and unnerving information that you absolutely must see. It is imperative that you get here as quickly as possible." She bounded from the couch and sprinted for the door.

Mulder eased into the little diner and sat in a booth at the back of the room, hoping to blend in with the background. He didn't want a repeat of his last "diner disaster" so he just ordered dinner and tried to remain low key. Taking the reports Scully had given him out of his pockets, he proceeded to follow their line of investigation to the research center and its reason for existence: "Variant Biogenetic Cloning." Oh, that's just wonderful, he pondered. They're into biogenetic cloning and he just left a healthy helping of *his* genetic material on their doorstep, so to speak. He hoped Scully had the presence of mind to destroy the sample after running whatever tests she was required to run or he envisioned his life becoming like a grade C sci fi movie with evil Mulder clones chasing his ass from here to eternity. Get a grip, Mulder, you're letting a hypoglycemic haze turn your brain into a wellspring for incoherent thought. Ok, snap out of it….biogenetic cloning, you understand…but what is this "variant" shit all about? Think damn it!! Variant: different, disagreeing, diversified, irregular, unusual, alien…..*ALIEN*? Fuck…that's it. A thousand different scenarios flooded his mind and none of them had a happy ending. His mind reeled. They've skipped injecting the alien DNA into adult subjects with pre formed ethics and moral development and had found a way to clone it directly into cloned human DNA within the reproductive structure itself. Oh God, they're crating their own hybrid beings from scratch, beings that would have no predisposition of right or wrong. They would only know what they were taught…and he *knew* who their teachers would be. What do you get when you cross the inhuman strength and abilities of alien DNA with the unstable psychosis of an Eve? Fucking Armageddon that's what. Didn't they fucking learn anything for the Leitchfield Experiments? He knew what they were doing, but *who* could he tell? Who in the *fuck* would believe him? The waitress came with his food but he had completely lost his appetite and in fact was fighting the urge to throw up, when he found himself surrounded by several men in black suits.

"Come with us agent Mulder and don't try and make a scene."

Scully looked at he screen in disbelief. How did these people get into the facility's research files? What she saw there was even *more* amazing and horrifying…The were creating beings–alien/human beings and she had been naive enough to believe she'd put an end to their experimentation with the destruction of what she thought was their only alien tissue source. She'd obviously been mistaken. Then another shocker……the report was posted by Dr. Sally Kendrick. My God, the "Eves" were back.

Frohike beamed with pride, "We also accessed their fax files, since it was built into the computer…it was easy. I thought that you might find this of interest. It's a request from the research facility to the FBI Bureau records section, first for a fingerprint comparison and then for a complete medical file on…..guess who?"

"I don't know, Frohike, why don't you tell me?"

"Our very own…Fox Mulder."

"Oh my God, we've gotta find Mulder. They're on to him and he's in danger."

"What do you mean, we?" asked Langly.

"Come on guys, I need your help. They may have gotten to him already and I can't look everywhere at once."

"What do you want us to do?" asked Byers.

"Two of you need to check out the Hobo encampment under the Harding Street overpass; I need someone to keep an eye on the research center; and I need someone to come with me to check out a hunch."

"Everyone synchronize your watches…cellular phones charged with spare batteries…we have a "missing Mulder," our mission….find him. Is everybody ready? The Lone Gunmen ride again!! Let's do it.

These people were just *too* weird. This was all a game to them, at least that's how it seemed. Didn't they realize that this was a life or death situation? Jesus, they may be strange and quirky but they were all that she had and they were willing to help. She'd take what she could get.

Dana and Frohike went to the diner where she'd told Mulder to go eat. The waitress remembered him because he'd ordered but instead of eating, he'd left with several strange looking men in black suits. Frohike immediately called the Harding Street team and told them to go to the research center instead. Dana prayed that her instincts were correct…it was the only place she could think of that they could have taken him.

He struggled as the men forced him down the hallway and hurled him to the floor of the examination room he'd been in earlier. He tried to raise himself up but the effort was made more difficult by the fact that they had bound his wrists together behind his back, so he sat where he was instead. The door to the room slowly opened once more and three familiar people walked inside.

"Eve Eight, I presume, along with Cindy and Tina," he said acidly.

"What a commendable memory, agent Mulder."

"There's nothing commendable about it…I was born with it."

"Mr. Mulder, I don't mind saying that you've been a real pain in the ass to us. Do you know that?"

"I certainly hope so," he replied with loathing.

"And our research was progressing along so well with a steady uninterrupted supply of guinea pigs. You see, for the material we needed, to be "usable," the oxygen levels and metabolic rates had to be "boosted," as it were. Necessary for viable hybrid material, but unfortunately, fatal for the donor–some things you just can't replicate in the lab. By the way, what tipped you off that these deaths were artificially induced? We took great pains to eliminate any evidence of foul play."

"The fact that there *was* no apparent reason for death and that the occurrences only affected one group of people in a contained area."

"We were doing the country a service by ridding the streets of the human refuse that burdened the system. No one would miss them…why did you care?"

"These people were human beings….with the same hopes and dreams as anyone else…One of the "human refuse" was my friend."

"You should choose your friends more carefully. You know the girls were quite upset with you for turning them in. Where they were sent was not a nice place, you know."

The twins stepped forward, smiled at each other and then at him.

"You can't die the same way as the others," Tina informed him.

"It would look too suspicious," remarked Cindy.

Eve Eight threw his medical file onto the floor before him.

"How did you get that?" he asked suspiciously.

"I have contacts in high places," she laughed, not quite sanely.

Tina and Cindy stared at him with evil, conspiring eyes.

"You don't like to eat shellfish, do you agent Mulder?" The twins spoke in unison.

"Not particularly," he answered warily.

"They make you pretty sick, don't they?" said Cindy.

Tina chimed in, "In fact, they make you so sick, that if you don't get medicine right away, you could die, couldn't you?"

His answer to them was a cold seething stare of contempt.

Eve Eight stepped forward with a hypodermic full of a thick, milky substance.

"Do you know what this is Mr. Mulder?"

He backed up against the table and nodded his head negatively.

"It's called "mucopolysacharides" and it's sometimes used in the treatment of arthritis, but it's also know as concentrated green lip mussel….a very powerful shellfish concentrate. It's a painful shot, but extremely effective."

The men came forward in a rush and held him to the floor as she injected him through his clothing. He lay motionless for several minutes as a liquid fire seemed to devour him from within. An old fear gripped him as a childhood memory filled his mind. He sucked in air but expelled it with a pitiful wheeze. Mucous filled his lungs and throat and no amount of coughing could dislodge it. He sucked in another breath but again could not release the stale air that was already trapped in his lungs. Gasping, he tried to cough but found himself drowning in his own body's fluids.

The room went black. He didn't know if the lights went out or if he was dying. He felt himself gently being lifted and carried away.

Scully and the Lone Gunmen began to advance toward the building. She wasn't certain how they would get inside but she couldn't just stand here and do nothing. They began to quicken their steps forward when Dana perceived movement on the ground just ahead of her. A voice yelled for her to stay back from the building and they all froze as the structure disintegrated into a huge fireball that lit up the sky for miles, while a singular small shadow fled into the night.

A strange little man bent protectively over Mulder as he lay gasping on the ground.

"Doctor Scully, I believe he is in immediate need of this medication." He handed her a syringe.

"What is it?" she asked distrustfully.

"Ephenephrine…. Please …I would not harm him."

She bent over and shone the flashlight on Mulder's face.

"Jesus, he's cyanotic." She grabbed the syringe and administered the medication. His breathing slowly eased into a normal rhythm, his cheeks began to regain some color and his lungs and air passages started to clear. He sat up carefully and coughed raggedly.

Dr. Jay…What are y… I mean, how did you get here?"

Think of me as a bioethic policeman—Experimentation on intelligent life forms is expressly forbidden and those who choose to disobey are severely punished. We were very pleased with your performance in this matter and yours as well Dr. Scully. Perhaps we shall meet again under more pleasant circumstances, Fox."

"How did you know my name and who are w…..e?"

They both looked up to find that the little man had disappeared into the darkness.

"Dana, did you see him?" he asked hopefully.

"Yeah, I saw him."

"Good, I was beginning to think he was a figment of my imagination."

She and Frohike helped him to his feet.

"What happened to you?"

"Asthma."

"You never told me you had asthma—"

"I don't…. usually, at least not since I was ten. I'm just violently allergic to shellfish."

"The lab was destroyed," she said with infinite satisfaction…."and hopefully, the research with it."

"Somehow, I've got the feeling that Doc had something to do with that."

"It's ironic."

"What?"

"The same substance that killed all those people….saved your life. Are you sure you don't want to go to the hospital?"

"No, I'll be fine with a little food and a real long nap."

They arrived at her apartment late, turned on the lights and found a large thermos placed in the middle of her dining room table with a note attached. "Fox, drink this tea…..I guarantee you'll feel much better, Doc."

"Wonder how he knew I'd come here?"

"Lucky guess," she said with one eyebrow raised. She went into the bathroom and turned on the tap. He heard the water running as he sat down at the table and guzzled a cup full of the amber liquid. It's rejuvenating qualities were incredible.

"Hey Scully," he shouted, "think you can get this tea analyzed? I feel like I could run a marathon."

"Mulder, " she yelled back, "Come here."

He walked into the bathroom.

"What's the matter?"

"You *STINK*."

A huge splash resounded throughout the apartment as the faint sound of laughter echoed off the walls and hung in the air.

Somewhere in time, Rose Bellmen smiled in approval………

When living leaves my pride bruised up I'm fragile as a feather The storms of life just won't let up You're like a change in weather When dust settles on my dreams You wash them clean Like a warm spring rain On the roof above The way you call my name When we make love While the world outside my window Goes insane You're here to remind me A few good things remain Kathy Matea—

                                                              FINE
/data/webs/external/dokuwiki/data/pages/archive/stories/forgotte.txt · Last modified: 2002/02/09 22:22 by 127.0.0.1

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