The Crystal Seeker
October 9, 1999
"I think it's back that way," she said.
"Nope," her partner replied. "The map said right down here."
"Then whoever made that map didn't come in this way."
"Ain't that the... get down!" A helicopter cruised overhead, a floodlight from its underbelly illuminating the area. He pulled her against his shoulder and tugged the brim of his MUFON cap down over his face. The aircraft swung in a lazy circle, hovered for a minute, then disappeared.
"Uh-huh," she said. "I told you this wasn't any cache of stolen museum pieces. This is the real thing, Bill. They've found evidence of a prehistoric civilization back here. They have ancient technology."
"Or alien. Don't laugh, Gerry. You were abducted, too. I saw you there."
"Okay, if you want it that way, maybe alien. But I was never... anywhere. It didn't happen."
They felt their way through the dark.
"What didn't happen was Atlantis," he said. "It's just a story. No one's ever found any evidence to back it up, and people have been looking at least since Plato."
"Of course they haven't found anything. It was supposed to have been destroyed!"
"In the conflagration they made of themselves by abusing this technology you think the highway crew dug up?"
"The power of crystals," she said. "And my contact at the University says everything they've brought up so far has used crystals one way or another."
"So do computers. Did they come from Atlantis, too? Come on, Gerry. There have been more UFO sightings in this area in the past year than in the rest of the US combined. They've lost something, and they're looking for it."
"Or they've FOUND something, something native to earth."
"You don't give up, do you?"
"Bill? What's that?" In the starlight all that was visible was a white splotch against the dark undergrowth. Bill bent close to it.
"Bandage, I think." He frowned, and pushed the shrubbery aside. "Wow!"
"There's a hole down here, and... just a minute." Bill's body disappeared under the bush. There was a momentary silence, and then another "Wow!"
"Gerry, you've got to come down here! You've got to see this...." And then there was silence again.
"Billy? Bill?" No answer. It would be just like the damn fool to conk himself on the head in the most inaccessible place in North America. Just because he claimed he'd been abducted by aliens, Bill expected to get away with all manner of stupidity. He'd be in real trouble if he didn't have Gerry to get him out. Cursing faintly, she wriggled down the hole.
It wasn't a cave. The floor and walls were of metal, and the roof was, too, except for a hatch of sorts where they'd come through. Could Bill be right? Could this be a spaceship? Gerry tiptoed down the corridor. It came to an end in a small room containing what could have been a biobed from Star Trek, only with a plastic dome over it. The room was empty, although there was signs of electrical damage, and something smelled really ripe. She crept past the bed and into the next corridor. There was light of a sort up ahead. Bill was an idiot. This was the biggest archeological find in the history of the world, and he was traipsing through it as if it were K-Mart. His MUFON buddies would laugh him out of their chapter. They'd put him on billboards as a bad example. They'd...
They'd never get the chance. Bill was lying in the center of what might have been a control room, face down in a very large pool of blood. A chunk was missing from the back of his neck. Gerry started to scream, started to throw up, started to turn and run. It was then that she felt a heavy hand descend on her shoulder.
October 12, 1999 Wilhoumet County Coroner's Office Mechesumma, Michegan
"Anyway, we knew we'd better call in the Feds. The last thing we want is somebody claiming we're allowing a serial killer to take all the UFO loonies he wants." Captain Michaelson pulled the bag away from the body and looked up at the tall man across the table from him. "Pretty, huh?"
"How many so far?"
"Seven, plus two presumed. Missing anthropology students from the University, but they were supposed to be major flakes."
"You know, the FBI kind of frowns on denigrating the victims. Could you turn him over, please?"
Michaelson would have refused anyone else, but what could he say? He grasped the body by its shoulders and rolled it toward him. The young agent ran some sort of sensor over the would at the back of the neck.
"Is that thing FBI issue?"
"Not exac... ah, shit!"
"You find something?"
"Something missing. Has anyone else been near these bodies? I'm going to need to see them all."
"No one's touched them. We were saving them... don't you have a partner who's a pathologist?"
"Agent Scully is in Washington on another case. Could I see the other bodies?"
"Sure. Sure, no problem." He had in fact been looking forward to single-handedly wrestling six stiffs around for an FBI agent in the middle of the night. "If you don't mind my asking, Agent Mulder, how did you come to lose that arm?"
October 13, 1999 Washington, DC
Skinner pointed at Krycek, but he spoke to the other man.
"Do you know how many years in prison I could get for allowing him in here?"
"Prison is the least of your worries, Mr. Skinner," the old man said, and blew a smoke ring.
"You don't really have any fantasies...."
A knock cut off Skinner's discourse, and Agents Scully and Fowley slid into the room. Scully stopped when she saw the men, and her lips drew together in a tight line. Fowley's hand touched her back, guided her into the room. Into God knows what.
"You asked to see us, sir?"
"Yes, Agent Scully, I have a case for you." He held out the file. When Scully ignored it, Fowley took it.
"A case from what source, sir?"
"Under the circumstances, a very reliable one indeed."
The old man ground out the Morley and spoke with deliberate calm.
"Nine MUFON members have been killed and mutilated. There are wounds on the back of each neck, and in some cases the face and mouth have also...."
Scully spoke to Skinner.
"Sir, you can't expect me to...."
"I expect you to do your job, Agent Scully."
The old man held up his hand.
"If Agent Mulder were still active, we would simply leak the suspicion of alien involvement and stand back. We can't do that anymore. We have to ask you to do the autopsies, Dana."
"Wait a minute." Fowley looked up from the folder. "It says here that Fox Mulder filed this report."
"When?" Scully asked.
Krycek squirmed in his chair.
"You didn't expect me to sign my own name, did you? It's not like he's using it right now, or anything."
"You are pathetic," she whispered. "You are all pathetic," she said as she stood up, "and I refuse to have anything to do with this... this official prevarication. If you feel the need for disciplinary action, sir, I'll be in my office when you want me to sign the papers."
Fowley closed her eyes as the door swung shut.
"Go after her," the old man said.
"What do you expect me to do?"
"You'd better do something!" He held out his hand for the file, but Fowley snapped it shut and followed Scully.
"Hey, hold the door!"
Scully stuck her hand out without thinking, then moved back as her partner stepped inside.
"Diana, I can't talk about this." She pointed at the folder Fowley carried. "And we are NOT taking that case!"
"All right, WE won't."
"What, you're going to do nine autopsies?"
"If that's what it takes, I'm going to stand over whoever does cut them."
"Why do you work for them?"
"I don't. I work for us, for all of us."
"You're fooling yourself." The door opened, and they walked toward the office.
"Maybe, but I'd rather fool myself into trying than sit on my ass and cry."
"Is that what you think of me?"
"You think I... damn you!"
"I didn't mean...."
"I can't do this, Diana! I can't be here with you and that case, not today, not on his goddamned birthday, for heaven's sake!" She spun away and stalked down the hall, high heels cracking against the tile.
"Dana, I was talking about ME!"
Scully faced her from inside the elevator.
"We'll talk about you tomorrow," she said as the doors closed. Fowley bit back a curse, turned in a circle like a chained dog and slammed the file against the office door, against the name that was still its only designation: Fox Mulder.
Scully drove aimlessly through the Washington traffic, tears burning her face. Only when the needle on the gas gauge bobbed toward the red 'E' did she look around and realize where she was.
Four blocks from Mulder's apartment, she was coming up on his favorite Thai restaurant.
Hell, he had been her partner, and it was his birthday. She had a right to want his things around her, to feel close to him. To the real him, not the raving husk his mother had placed in a discreet hospital in rural Vermont.
She still had her key. She bought dinner for two, and headed toward Mulder's building.
It was mustier from the weeks of inoccupancy, but then it had been pretty musty to start with. Scully had only known Mulder to wash his socks once, and that had been when she'd gone to the laundry with him. Otherwise he just bought new. The apartment hadn't changed. It had been kept intact for the official FBI investigation, and Scully suspected there had been other agencies here as well. The place had more secrets than a soap opera.
Secrets like the source of the noise coming from Mulder's bedroom. Scully set the food on the floor, drew her weapon and tiptoed to the door.
She needn't have bothered. Diana Fowley was sobbing in the middle of Mulder's bed, her hands tangled in a pair of boxers printed with green smiley faces.
"Scully? What are you doing here?"
"Just... visiting." She tucked her pistol back in its holster and came to the bed. "Are you all right?"
"Of course. I'm just... just..."
"Bleeding." Scully climbed up on the bed and pulled Diana's swollen hand from the fabric.
"It's stopped. I hit the door. It's better now."
"It should be on ice. Hang on."
"He couldn't keep ice when he lived here, much less now."
"Cold water, then." She wrapped a cool wet cloth from the bathroom around the throbbing hand and laid it on a folded towel in Diana's lap. "Is that better?"
"Yes. Yes, it is. Thank you."
"Are you hungry? I've got Thai."
"From that place he liked...?"
"Yeah. Yeah, from there. There's plenty. I guess it was habit. I ordered for two." Scully blinked, fighting tears.
"Cry if you want. It's not like I'm going to tell anyone."
"I'm not... oh, hell! Diana!"
"Go on. Get it all out."
"I'm sorry. I... what did you ever see in him, anyway? I mean, I was assigned, but you...."
"He told me I was pretty. Nobody ever told me that before."
"I find that hard to believe."
"I was taller than any boy in my class, my face is crooked, I have eyes like a raccoon...."
Somehow Scully's hands were brushing Diana's face, cradling it, smoothing away the tears.
"You're beautiful," she said again. "From the first moment I saw you, I wondered how I could compete with these," and she nodded toward Diana's breasts, "and those," and she slid a hand down the outside of her thigh.
"I have knock-knees," Diana protested.
"So are you, and you're young."
"That first day when the two of you walked into the briefing room, I knew he'd never want me again. Not with you...."
"You left him." Fowley looked away. Scully caught her chin and pulled it back. "Hey, we've come too far to stop now. You left him. Why did you go?"
"You have porcelain skin and perfect features and all that beautiful red hair...."
"I'll ask my hairdresser for the number for you. Why did you leave Mulder? Was there someone else?"
"No, I don't."
"They told me they'd kill him if I didn't do what they wanted."
It took a moment for the words to sink in, and Scully pulled away.
"The Consortium? They threatened Mulder?"
"He was going to be perfectly safe, so long as I did what they wanted. And now look!"
"But for so long... all those years... oh, my God! We could never figure out why they protected us, and all the time...."
"They didn't tell me about you. Not for... not for a while. And I didn't know exactly what was going on until a couple of years ago."
"You know now. Why do you still work for them?
"Somebody has got to do it. Aliens are trying to take over our planet. At some point it stopped being about Fox and started being about Earth, about staying... alive...." she dabbed at her face with Mulder's underwear, making no perceptible impression on the flood of tears. Scully shook her head.
"Diana, those people...."
"There isn't anyone else! Is there? In all the years you've danced around the pe... periphery of this thing, have you ever encountered... any effective force against them, besides the Con... sortium?"
"Diana, don't cry. Stop it! We have enough to cry about without wasting tears on those people!"
"I should have told them to go to hell. I should have had what time I had, with him...."
Scully's arms enfolded her, pressed her smaller body tight against Diana. Scully's lips brushed against her hair, then her forehead, and then, finally, her mouth. Scully's hands tangled in Diana's hair, pulling her down, down into deep sweet warmth like the thickest honey, like wine the color of blood, like golden light flooding a room that had been in darkness for far too long. Her hands found Scully's waist, pulled her closer, and then crept down to grasp the soft sweet flesh of her backside.
"We can't do this," she said, her hands sliding under Scully's skirt and finding the body-warmed silk panties. "This is going to be all over the FBI by morning, Scully...."
Scully's fingers opened Diana's blouse and released her brassiere. Warm hands lifted, enfolded, caressed her tender nipples. Diana leaned into them with abandon.
Scully woke concious of a sweet warmth against her bare back, of breath on her neck, of... of breasts pressing against her.
Diana. Oh, God, she'd done it now.
And something else, some scrabbling motion from the other room. Flashing on Tooms/Flukeman/ Fijimermaid, Scully groped for her gun, rousing Fowley as she did, and found the weapon just as Mulder's burglar alarm went off.
"Uh-huh." The detective handling the matter was five three and a half and two hundred fifty pounds, and he was enjoying watching Skinner spin. "Your two agents were here doing what, now?"
"Investigating the mysterious breakdown of a third agent now undergoing treatment. There was the possibility of some environmental contaminant...."
"Uh-huh. And they were investigating this contaminant?"
"I would assume so."
"I would guess that there was some sort of glitch in their investigation." Behind the little detective Krycek and the old man came out of Mulder's bedroom. Oh, no. Krycek was holding a videotape. Skinner did not want to know what was on it. He did not want to be here. He supposed he should be grateful that Scully and Fowley had reached an accord of any sort. He just wished he could get the image out of his mind: two glorious female bodies pressed together in the dark, and his hands...
"Sorry. I was...."
"Going over the investigation?"
"Right. Do you need anything else from me? You have my number."
"No, sir, I think I've got more than enough already. You have a good evening."
Scully and Fowley were sitting at opposite ends of Mulder's black leather couch. Skinner sat down on the coffee table.
"You two want to tell me about it?"
"I came by to feed the fish," Scully said.
Skinner took Fowley's bandaged hand in his.
"Piranhas?" he asked, and regretted the comment immediately. Scully was almost in tears. Diana's free hand touched Scully's cheek, and Scully jerked away as if she'd been burned.
"Agent Scully? Are you all right?"
Scully didn't answer Skinner, but she finally looked at Fowley.
"What did they give you?" she asked. "What did they offer you this time, to get what they needed on tape?"
"I didn't know," Diana said, dabbing at her own tears. "I swear I didn't. Dana?"
"Leave me alone, okay? Just leave me alone."
There was a rap at the door. A dark child of about ten stood in the hall wiping her teary face.
"Excuse me," she said. "Is Agent Mulder here?"
Skinner went to the door.
"Agent Mulder isn't feeling well. He's gone to a private hospital for treatment."
"Oh. I only was supposed to call him if my grandma wouldn't open her door. She lives downstairs."
"Here you go, detective," Skinner said. "This one should be more along your lines."
"Victim is Sadie Tuffield, an African-American female aged 56, found dead in her apartment after her granddaughter reported no response at her door. Cause of death is spinal trauma incidental to a wound at the back of the neck." Scully clicked off her recorder. "What is that thing?" she asked Krycek.
He held it behind her neck, and it whirred madly.
"It likes you, Scully," he said.
"What does it do?"
He held it out to her, showed her the array of readings.
"It probes those things in your necks," he said. "I wish I knew what it all meant."
"Mrs. Tuffield has an implant?"
"Had, by our records. It's not there now. See?" He placed the device over the corpse's neck. It went blank.
"It would be reasonable to assume that something attacked these people specifically to extract their implants."
"But how did it know about you? It killed a bunch of people in Michegan, and then came all the way to Washington for its next meal?"
"Don't be stupid, Krycek."
"I can't help it. It comes naturally. No, seriously, what do you think?"
"Where did you get that device? What technology does it use?"
"I mean who or whatever this is can detect the implants. It also detected your device."
"It was following me?"
"You led it to me, Krycek. Was that what you were supposed to do? Was it supposed to eliminate me the way you eliminated Mulder?"
"Scully, we don't even know what this thing is!"
"No, but we know what it does." She restarted the recorder. "Three of the subject's teeth have been forcibly extracted, probably postmortem. Multiple facial wounds exposing the sinus cavities, to wit: one four millimeter...."
They all met at Skinner's office after lunch. Scully sat in the chair at one end of the sofa, and Diana perched on the arm of the old man's, at the other end. Krycek had the couch to himself. Skinner stayed behind the sheltering desk and summarized.
"So we think some person or persons with the ability to detect alien technology followed Agent Scully around all day until it got a chance to take her unawares, and when the burglar alarm frustrated the attack, took the old woman instead? Do we have any idea who these people are?"
Krycek sat up.
"There were rumors going around in Mechesumma. A highway crew was excavating a tunnel, and they found something really weird."
The old man raised an eyebrow.
"Did this weirdness have anything to do with the case?"
"It's supposed to be weird machines."
"I didn't see them, but it's supposed to be a totally unknown technology. One of the students with an unconventional bent had speculated that it might be from Atlantis."
"Now that is the strangest thing I've heard come out of this office yet. There is no tectonic evidence that anything of remotely continental size ever sank beneath the surface of any ocean on earth!"
"She didn't say it sank," Alex said. "She said they 'misused the power of crystals' and destroyed themselves. And all the stuff at the university is supposed to be based on crystals."
Fowley scratched under the bandage on her hand. "What does it want with all these crystals, anyway?"
"It's building something," Scully said.
"To do what?"
"Nothing real. It's probably just some mentally disturbed person on the fringes of the discovery who believes that he or she is Atlantean. The woman Alex is talking about would be my best guess."
"Where is this person now?" Skinner asked.
"Body bag eight," Krycek replied. "They should be at Quantico by now."
"So much for that idea."
"We know what it wants," Scully said.
"Agreed." The old man twirled an unlit cigarette through his fingers. "It wants you, and it knows where to find you."
"It wants me, or any of several hundred former abductees. Is that not the case?"
"It knows where to find you."
"And if it's put off, there could be another tragedy like Mrs. Tuffield. Sir, I am tired of people dying in my place."
Skinner leaned back in his chair.
"You have a better option, Agent Scully?"
"Better bait." There was silence in the room. Scully smiled at the old man across from her. "Sir, Agent Mulder once described to me a store of implants that he found somewhere in the Washington area. Do you know where it is?"
"Didn't he tell you?"
"You do know."
"Dana, those things are vital to our continuing effort...."
"They are vital to the apprehension of this suspect. It's the one thing we know he'll go for. Can you get them?"
He licked his lips.
"I'll have to get authorization...."
"Where is this place?" Skinner asked.
This wasn't going to work. Krycek couldn't find a comfortable way to carry the bag of implants in one arm. He couldn't find a casual way to walk. What kind of an idiot carries a batch of highly sensitive devices down a deserted Washington street on foot, for heaven's sake? No one would ever believe it.
But he was watching. Alex could feel his eyes. They were fixed on the back of Alex's neck, just where the flesh had been ripped from the victims.
Alex was going to get a no-implant tattoo as soon as this was over.
"Okay, we've got you." Skinner's gruff voice was actually a reassurance. Someone would get to watch the perp rip Alex's head off.
"Yeah," he whispered. "What do I do if I get to the end of the street alive?"
Fowley's voice: "Turn around, look lost and check addresses carefully as you walk slowly back this way."
"Slowly, my ass. How come you don't get to be the bait?"
"It knows you. It knows you have contact with the devices. It might find this reasonable."
"Why? I don't." He stopped and looked up at a shop window. "Anybody got any money? They've got duvets two for fifteen dollars here."
Skinner again: "Move along."
"Somebody want to check that alley? I swear that guy's watching me."
Fowley: "Okay, I'm on him."
"Gonna leave the Princess alone?"
"Fuck you, Krycek."
"Hiya, Scully. They actually let you work the radio?"
The old man: "Children! Watch Diana, Alex."
"Hey, I've got enough problems watching myself." Fowley turned down the alley and approached the bundle of rags in the doorway. The bundle didn't move. She spoke. Nada. She touched the pointed toe of one high heeled shoe to its leg.
It reached out and grabbed her.
Fowley whacked it with the enormous Smith and Wesson she carried. It fell over, disgorging two empty liquor bottles.
"Just a drunk," she said, stepping back into the street.
"Yeah, okay, go on back to Precious."
"Fuck you, Alex."
"Hey, that's Scully's line. Ain't that right, Scully?"
Skinner's voice: "Agent Scully, please respond."
More silence. Fowley was moving down the sidewalk on her side, back toward the car. Alex turned to parallel her on his side, and saw them. Scully, blank-eyed and docile, being escorted along the sidewalk by an oddly dressed bald guy with a three day's growth of beard. Skinner was beyond them, coming their way. The bald guy saw them, stopped, stopped Scully with a gesture. He held up... something. Something sharp, with three tines, like a gardening fork. Something that could have made the wounds on all those bodies. He'd made Skinner and Krycek both, now. Slowly he moved toward the alley, with Scully following like a friendly puppy. He was going to get away with her. God, the old man would have fits!
And then someone snatched the satchel from his hand. Diana. She held it over her head and walked toward the two. Baldy saw it. He must know what it was. He was licking his lips. Fowley pointed at Scully, jerked her thumb up the walk. Skinner had found a sheltered place in a doorway, waiting for a chance to shoot. Baldy stepped back into the alley, Scully alongside him. Diana stopped in front of them. She pointed at Scully and crooked a finger. It was like a movie with no subtitles, except that Alex didn't like the ending.
"He's not going for it."
Skinner: "Shut up, Krycek. Stay out of my line of fire."
Baldy pointed at the satchel. Diana set it on the sidewalk and backed off a step. Baldy snatched it and shoved Scully into her arms. And just as Skinner raised his pistol, there was a very bright light.
Skinner never saw the man disappear. One moment he was there, and the next, he was gone, and so were the crystals. Fowley was sitting on the sidewalk, cradling Scully in her lap, while Krycek stood over them with his gun in his hand. Skinner compared his watch to the bank clock down the street.
Yep. Nine minutes gone. He strode down the walk and knelt beside the women.
"I'm okay," she said, her speech slurred. "I think I'm okay."
"I dunno. I just couldn't say no to anything. I wondered how he got Mrs. Tuffield to open her door to a stranger. Now I know."
"Where are the crystals we all signed away our lives for?" Skinner asked.
"They got them," Krycek said. "The Boss is going to hit the roof."
"Let him," Skinner snapped. He had long ago lost all patience with the Morley man. He held out his hands to the women on the ground. "Come on, you two," he said.
"Is it over?" Scully asked.
"Yeah," Diana replied. "Whose turn is it to write the report?"