"What are you wearing?"
Mulder. I looked down at my sweats and t-shirt.
"Oh, wouldn't you like to know?" I teased, enjoying the game.
"Well, if you won't tell me what you're wearing, I'm going tell you what I want you to wear," he said, lowering his voice.
"Go on," I coaxed. He was in quite a mood.
"Wear something sexy. Be ready in five minutes."
He hung up abruptly and I found myself listening to a dial tone.
Mulder, the man of few words and many mysteries. Mysteries I was starting to unravel as our relationship was changing. I decided to play along and sprinted into the bedroom. I flung open the closet and started rummaging through my wardrobe. Five minute "sexy" was a simple a-line dress with a scoop neckline, long sleeves and a skirt that fell just above my knees. And shoes much higher than my normal heel, with an open toe and unusual strapping. I shook my hair out of its ponytail and put on some lipstick.
Within seconds, I heard keys at the door and my heart raced in anticipation.
"Scully?" he called out.
"Just a minute!" I adjusted my hem line and walked out to the living room.
I was hoping his choice of attire would give me some clue to his madness, but it didn't. Mulder was wearing his black leather jacket, dress pants and a turtleneck.
"Oooh, Scully," he whispered. His eyes traveled up and down my body.
"Five minutes isn't a lot of time." I said, wrapping my arms around his neck. I kissed him firmly.
He held me closer, his forehead pressed against mine after our lips parted. "I knew you were up to the challenge. You look beautiful."
"Where are you taking me?" I asked.
His brought his finger to my lips and then to his own. "It's a secret."
"I have ways of making you talk," I said.
Mulder slowly walked towards me, backing me into the wall. His hands ran up my arms and held my face. "Oh really? I'd like to see your powers of persuasion, Agent Scully."
Mulder leaned in, the length of his body pressing me up against the wall. I couldn't escape if I wanted to. He kissed me slowly, his mouth opening mine, deepening the kiss. He broke away and started kissing my cheek, my ear, my neck. Everything with Mulder was all-consuming, his work, his beliefs, his lovemaking.
I could feel my body reacting to him. His hands traveled down my sides, to my thighs, reaching back to my buttocks and then up my back.
We continued to kiss, my head losing all sense of rationality. My hands were around him, holding him close. He smelled of after shave and musk and leather. Masculine. Sensual. I had managed to pull his shirt free and the palms of my hands were against his back when suddenly something was chirping loudly, like an alarm.
We broke apart and listened. It was coming from his jacket pocket, it chirped again.
I bit my lip, feeling aroused and very warm. This what Mulder did to me. This was that dangerous thing I'd been running from all those years.
"If you answer that, I'll shoot you."
Mulder exhaled slowly, trying to cool down. It chirped again.
We stared at each other. It chirped again.
It wasn't going to stop.
I reached in his pocket and pulled out the phone, flipping it open and hitting the "send" button. I held it up against his ear.
"Mulder," he said, reluctantly.
"Who is it?" I asked, wondering who interrupted us.
"Frohike," he answered. Then, to the phone, "Slow down, I can't understand you."
Just Frohike. I leaned back against the wall, pulling Mulder back towards me by the belt loops so his hips were pressed against mine. I kissed his other ear, the one that wasn't listening to Frohike. But it was so quiet, I could hear his voice through the phone.
"It's Langly, Mulder. He's gone."
"Gone, what do you mean gone?" Mulder said, the look on his face took on concern.
I stopped kissing him. He moved the phone between us, so we both could listen.
"I can't discuss it over a cell phone, but he was working on something and he's missing. Can you come over here?" Frohike pleaded, anxiety coming through his tone.
Mulder lowered the phone. "Scully?"
He was asking my permission. It could be anything, or it could be nothing. I sighed loudly and nodded.
"Mulder? Is someone with you?" Frohike's voice said nervously.
"Just Scully. We'll be right over."
Mulder clicked the phone shut and dropped it in his pocket. He smiled at me, tenderly. "I'm sorry, Scully."
"It's okay, Mulder. Hopefully, this is just Frohike overreacting."
Mulder kissed me soundly. He mouthed "I love you" against my lips before moving to the door.
"You owe me," I corrected, turning to get my coat and gun.
Lone Gunmen Headquarters
It was Frohike who answered the door. "Thank God, Mulder. Get in here!"
He shuffled us both in, leering out in the alleyway and looking both ways suspiciously before slamming the door shut. He had about 10 locks on the door, which he systematically fastened top down.
"Hi, Byers," I said, looking over at the man in the suit. Byers was my favorite Gunman, he seemed the most sane.
"Good evening, Agent Scully. We didn't know you'd be joining us, but we certainly appreciate your help," he said politely. He turned his head back to the computer and continued hacking away.
Frohike had a weird contraption on his head, which appeared to be night vision goggles with severe modifications.
"That damn hippie!" he muttered.
It was dark in the Gunmen's lair, no matter what time you visited. You could practically feel the paranoia oozing from the walls. I paced around the room, hands in the pockets of my thickest trench. There was no way I was taking off the coat, not in this dress, not in front of Frohike.
Mulder perched himself on a stool. "Okay boys, what happened?"
Frohike stared at Byers.
Byers stared at Frohike.
But it was Byers who spoke first. "We wanted to surprise you, Mulder."
"Surprise me?" Mulder's voice was edgy.
"The X-files, Mulder. We've been trying to piece them back together for you. We know the physical files burned, and you were using whatever forensics methods you could to recover them that way," Frohike said, walking around the center work area near Byers.
"And Langly knew you had several records stored electronically in the FBI computer. Files which you can no longer access," Byers added. "He hacked into the system, and was downloading them for you."
Frohike walked over to a file cabinet that was underneath the table, I walked over to join him. He opened a drawer, and in it alphabetically were files, in the same cataloguing systems I was so familiar with. It was Mulder's system.
"Mulder, it's our files. Some of them, anyway," I thumbed through them.
"He figured, if you could piece together some of the evidence, he could reconstruct the files, the data. Whatever he could find in the FBI computers, plus what information we have stored from the cases we worked on." Frohike finished.
Mulder's face was a mixture of emotions. He sat there, pursing up his lips, worry lines creeping across his face.
"Do you remember the kill switch case? The one with Esther Nairn? Something we hadn't told you happened shortly after Esther was killed. Langly got the message *bite me* across the computer screen. We thought it was weird enough at the time, but two weeks ago, he got the same message." Byers waved his hand over the computer.
"Bite me," I repeated, suspecting where this was going.
"Langly then began receiving coded e-mails sporadically, all encrypted with one word, Invisigoth. He traced the messages to providers all over the world, but no actual accounts existed."
"Invisigoth" was Esther's code name on the e-mail she had sent to Donald Gelman, the one that enabled us to track her down the first time. My mind ran over the details of the case, of the strange blond woman who killed herself to destroy an AI, the artificial intelligence she helped create.
"Langly believed these messages were from Esther," Frohike said, leaning on the table.
"Esther is dead, Frohike," I said firmly. "We saw the trailer explode. Her body was burned in the fire."
"Her body may have died. But according to Mulder's field report, Esther believed she could 'upload' her consciousness onto the net. Langly is convinced she's still out there. The last e-mail I can find was from early this morning at 2:45 a.m. When I decoded it, it said: Hurry, it's aware. Invisigoth. Shortly after that, Langly was gone." Byers' eyes met mine, and they held conviction.
"What's aware? The AI?" Mulder asked, thinking out loud.
I turned my head and looked at Mulder. "So, Langly has gone off searching for her...its crazy. There is no way to verify any transmission were related to the AI, let alone from Esther."
"That aside," Mulder said, hand on his chin as he paced. "The AI that was created was highly dangerous, driven by self-preservation. What if it found a way to rebuild itself? Esther had said it was a life form designed to evolve and thrive on the net. If it still exists, it wouldn't hesitate to kill Langly in a effort to protect itself."
"That didn't matter to him. The idiot is infatuated with her," Frohike said, shaking his head.
We spent the next hour combing through what Langly left behind. And called in a report on Langly's van.
On the original case, the AI needed a T3 hard-line, a fiber optics system similar to those used by internet providers that it used to monitor all communications devices. We agreed that if the AI had managed to survive Esther's kill switch virus, it would have to establish another T3 link.
While Mulder and Byers searched for the T3, Frohike and I zeroed on the e-mails, trying to find clues as to where Langly might have gone. Since we only had one computer, we sat in close proximity, something Frohike seemed to derive great pleasure from. I caught him smelling my hair twice. I was grateful when he left to get some zip disks.
Mulder came up around me, his fingers brushed the nape of my neck. He pretended to read over my shoulder, giving him an excuse to whisper in my ear.
"I'm really sorry, Scully. I had no idea what we were getting into."
"Neither did Langly apparently."
I kept searching the files while Mulder perched over Byers. I could feel a pair of eyes on me, and I looked up.
Frohike had returned and was staring at my shoes.
"Is something the matter?" I asked, raising an eyebrow at him.
"No, nothing at all," he answered. His tone was odd. "So, where were you two headed again?"
I looked at Mulder.
He looked at me.
"Undercover work," Mulder said sharply, staring Frohike down.
I cringed at his choice of words.
Frohike sniffed, then looked at my shoes again.
"Hey, I think I've found something," Byers exclaimed. "North Platte, Nebraska. There appears to have been another T3 link, similar to the one in Fairfax County. A trailer, set up in a park, was burned to the ground two weeks ago."
"That's about the time of the e-mails," Frohike commented, joining Byers at the computer. "Burned like it was struck by lighting."
"Or a weapons satellite," Mulder said.
"But why would it fire on itself again? Another intruder?" I asked, shaking my head.
"Or was it *terminated*?" Frohike queried. "What did the first e-mail say?"
"Checkmate, Invisigoth," I answered, trying to follow Frohike's logic. Then it hit me. "You're not saying Esther did that?"
"I'm saying AI may not be only thing loose on the net."
Mulder's cell phone, which was lying on the table, chirped loudly. He reached for it. "Mulder? Yes? You have a trace on the van?"
Byers and Frohike gathered around Mulder to hear him better. "Uh-huh. Rockville, Maryland. No, we'll handle it. Thanks."
"They found the van?" Byers asked eagerly.
"One matching the description, near an industrial park. It's not like the Volkswagen Westphalia is a common vehicle."
"That's him," Frohike said, straightening his furry vest. "Let's go."
Frohike and Byers proceeded to load up my car with various devices and gadgets they felt might be of use. I took advantage of their absence to change clothes, luckily I had a pair of jeans and running shoes in the trunk. I reluctantly borrowed one of Langly's Metallica shirts, which seemed clean. As I undressed, I had the sneaking suspicion I was being taped on video surveillance. I groaned at the idea of the Gunmen making copies or featuring me in their next publication.
We piled in my car, Byers sat in the passenger seat while Frohike and Mulder were in the back. I caught Frohike staring at me a couple times in the rear view mirror.
He never gave up.
Centerline Industrial Park
"Apparently, some of the workers saw the van early this morning. But he disappeared," Mulder said.
I circled the parking lots. They were like a maze, parts were still gravel, others dirt. There was lots of construction, storage units, and trucks. It was very dark, since the lighting was not installed.
"There! Langly's van," Byers exclaimed, pointing off to the right.
Hidden behind some CATs and dump trucks was the unmistakable square van. Byers and Frohike jumped out of the car, before I even came to a stop. Mulder leaned into the front seat and touched my arm.
I turned my head and found my lips were just inches from his. "You and your friends, Mulder."
"Gotta love them," he moved closer, almost kissing me, but then pulled back. "Open the trunk."
Mulder dug the flashlights out of the trunk and we joined them. Byers had an extra set of keys and he unlocked the back of the van. Frohike leaned in, brushing up against me on purpose.
"Look," Byers said. As Mulder shone the flashlight around, we saw various computer hardware, a couple monitors, a laptop and many peripherals. "I haven't seen any of this before."
Mulder passed the flashlight off to Frohike and pulled me to the side.
"Scully, why don't you and Frohike search the van, Byers and I will have a look around and see if we can find him."
"I'd rather go with you, or with Byers," I whispered.
"It's okay, Frohike doesn't bite," Mulder whispered back. "Unless you ask him too."
"And how would you know?" I smirked at him. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my gun. I pressed it into his hand, letting our fingers touch much longer than necessary.
"Byers, why don't you and I search around for him? Frohike, you and Scully can check out the computers," Mulder instructed, giving my shoulder a reassuring squeeze.
They looked at each other and nodded.
"I brought a two-way headset. We can keep in contact," Byers said. I handed him the keys to my car.
"Good," Mulder said.
Byers returned with a couple of headsets, one he gave to me.
"Fashionable and functional. What more could a girl want?" I held the contraption up as I watched Mulder and Byers leave.
Frohike nudged my elbow. "I guess it's just you and me, Agent Scully."
I couldn't help but notice the odd smile on his face.
I wished I knew more about computers, Frohike was far more sophisticated with them than I was. Though highly coded and cryptic, he was able to decipher a set of numbers. I climbed into the passenger seat and adjusted the headset.
"Mulder," I said into the mouthpiece. "We've got something. It's a license number, probably for one of the 18 wheelers. Georgia plates, 45-389."
There was a blast of static, "Got it, Scully. We're on the other side of the complex, it's mostly deserted. Empty space, it's still very much under construction. Lots of warehouses. Byers, they've got something on a license plate."
"Any signs of him?"
"No, nothing yet. We're heading back. We did pass some trailer beds earlier." There was a pause. "How are you and Frohike getting it on?"
"Getting it on?" I repeated. What a choice of words.
"Getting ALONG," he enunciated, though I was sure he originally said the other. "Was that a Freudian slip, Scully?"
"I guess you've found us out, Mulder. He's the other man I've been seeing," I glanced at the back of the van, where he was still working away quietly like a little gnome. I spoke very softly. "I really had that dress on for him when you called."
"Oh, but you'd take it off for me, right?"
"Mulder, Byers will hear you," I warned, suppressing a smile.
"Hear what?" Frohike asked, climbing back into the driver's seat.
"Nothing," I replied quickly.
"Did you tell them about the plate?"
"Yes, they're headed back here now."
An uneasy silence spread out between us and I was suddenly aware it was just Frohike and I, alone.
"He better be treating you right," he said quietly.
"Who?" I asked, warming my hands with my breath.
"Mulder," Frohike breathed sadly. He looked over at me with his strange eyes. "He just better be treating you right. Because if he's not, he'll have to answer to me."
He could have been talking about anything, but I had an uneasy feeling creeping over me. I narrowed my eyes at him, trying to seem intimidating. I pushed the mouthpiece upwards, so Mulder couldn't hear me.
"What has Mulder told you?" I demanded.
"Don't get your panties in a wad, he didn't tell me anything," Frohike said nervously. He shifted uneasily in his seat. "I can just tell. I've spend a lot to time studying Mulder, his habits. He hasn't been the same since that whole Bermuda Triangle incident. Not to mention Mulder gave me his entire videotape collection. "
So, that's where it went.
I felt knot in my stomach. He knew. I stared out the window. "If you breathe a word to the others Frohike...we want this completely separate from our professional lives."
"If you two are doing the wild thing, that's none of my business. I won't say a word, Agent Scully," he promised. Frohike placed a hand gingerly on my arm. "I understand completely how this must be kept extremely confidential. For your protection."
I half-grinned at him. Maybe he did understand.
He took a deep breath, in preparation. "I've always known I never had a chance. What would someone like you ever seen in someone like me? I stopped deluding myself a while ago. But Mulder, he needs you. You're everything to him. But I just wanted you to know I will always care about you and I'm here for you."
"I'll keep that in mind," I reassured him.
I was bonding with Frohike and it scared me.
"Scully!" shouted Mulder in the headset, loud enough Frohike could hear. "We've found it. Just the trailer, but the plates match."
"Where are you?"
"Around the complex, behind the storage units where the concrete pillars are."
"Got it," I said. I motioned for Frohike to start the van. "We're headed that way now."
Frohike stared over at me. "Uh, I have a problem, Agent Scully."
"What? We need to get going, Frohike."
"I can't drive a stick shift."
I tried not to smack him, but I did shove him out of the driver's seat.
I pulled the van a safe distance from the trailer. I hated not being armed, I felt useless not being able to back Mulder up. I instructed Frohike to proceed carefully. Mulder was in place, armed and in position. Byers held the handle of the door, ready to pull up on command. We took our places and waited.
"One, two, three...." Mulder mouthed. Byers pushed the door up, Frohike and I flashed light in the trailer. "Freeze! Federal Agents!"
"Jesus Christ!" shouted a familiar voice. "Put the fucking gun down!"
Langly was crouched in the front of the trailer, over a laptop.
"Langly! You son of a bitch," exclaimed Frohike, climbing in. "What the hell are you doing?"
"What the hell are you doing?" he replied, paranoid. "I'm working on something highly sensitive."
"We know what you're doing, Langly," Mulder said. "You're messing with that AI, the one Esther created."
"Yeah, and given how it can track all communications, I thought it would be best if I try to pinpoint it first," Langly said. He turned his attention back to the laptop. "I'm not really wanting to be scorched."
Frohike extended his hand to me, to help me up. Mulder and Byers followed, although Byers seems a bit distressed that his suit was quickly becoming soiled. He brushed the dirt of his pants legs.
"So, you have evidence it's still on the net?" I asked, folding my arms. I noticed the lone modem cord that was connected out the bottom of the trailer, presumable tapped into one of the empty office buildings.
Langly sighed, as if he was losing patience with us. "It's still out there. After the kill switch, it was damaged. But it managed to survive and adapt. It rebuilt its hardware base in Nebraska. But...."
"But what?" Mulder asked, his eyes bearing down on him.
"But...Esther was able to track it down, and use it's weapon satellite uplink against it. Her intelligence, her awareness has also evolved." Langly paused and stared at me. "Agent Scully...isn't that my shirt?"
"Never mind, Langly." I exhaled sharply and turned on my heel. I was trying hard not to lose my patience.
"So where is it now?" Byers asked. "Out on the net?"
"Yes, but it knows so is Esther. It wants to eliminate the threat. She's trying to stay one step ahead. That's why she sought my help. Because she knew I could help her find it and destroy it once and for all."
"So, what now?" Frohike asked.
"We need to drive it back to its hardware base and off the net. I've been working on a new kill switch virus. But I need Esther to cut off it's connection to the net, to make it dependent on its hardware again. What failed before was it still existed in part in cyberspace, which is it's natural environment. If she can sweep it out, then it can't evolve again," Langly typed frantically into the laptop. "She's almost got the new location figured out...just a few more minutes. What's going to be dangerous is if it figures out what she's doing in the time it's going to take to upload the information to me."
I knew part of this could have been true, I'd seen with my own eyes what this AI was capable of doing. There was evidence, in the trailer at North Platte, that it could have survived.
"Agent Scully, I have a message for you, from Esther."
I turned around and narrowed my eyes. "What message?"
"Buenos dias, muchacha," Langly replied. "Does that mean anything to you?"
It was what Esther said to me, before she put a gun to my head and drove us out to David's destroyed house. It didn't necessarily mean anything. Langly had been in the next room, maybe he had heard it halfway between sleep and consciousness. I looked up and saw Mulder's eyes seeking mine, looking for my response. Or more correctly, my belief.
I shook my head. "I'm not sure. Maybe."
"I've got it!" Langly announced. "It's in New Castle, Pennsylvania."
"New Castle? That's at least four hours away," I said, a little louder than I meant to.
Four sets of eyes glared back at me.
"I guess we're going to New Castle," I said under my breath.
New Castle, Pennsylvania
Langly was given a set of coordinates, latitude and longitude to navigate by. Byers and Langly has a global positioning system receiver they created. Military ones were accurate to a three mile radius. Frohike swore up and down it was just as good. If we got within thirty miles with their version, I figured we were doing good.
We drove in circles, unable to find anything in the coordinates Langly was given. There was an abandoned factory in one direction, railroad tracks and worn buildings. Byers and Langely circled the van around the alley. I just stopped the car.
"Why are you stopping, Agent Scully?" Frohike tapped my shoulder and leaned forward.
"Because there is nothing here, Frohike. According to your GPS, this is the it. I don't see anything."
Mulder got out of the car and walked around, his eyes surveying everything.
"Frohike, we've just been driving in circles."
"Maybe it's in one of the nearby buildings?" he asked.
"No. What we do know, is it likes seclusion. Trailers. Something isolated." I got out of the car and Frohike joined me. "Anything?"
"Maybe. Frohike, give me the GPS."
Mulder took it from him and readjusted his position. "Somewhere around here."
"Right where, Mulder?"
"Here." He pointed to his feet.
"Underneath? You're saying it's in sewer tunnels?"
"Think about it, Scully. This area is old, with these tunnels probably dating back to the first part of this century. Who knows what structures might exist below. What better way to protect itself from another blast from space than going underground? We've just got to find a manhole."
Byers and Langly stopped the van and joined us. Frohike updated them on Mulder's theory.
"I have to finalize one more thing on the new kill switch," Langly said. He sat on the hood of my car and continued to work on the laptop.
I followed Mulder with Byers and Frohike stayed behind with Langly. About two blocks away, he found a manhole cover. Byers helped him move it while I held the flashlight. "I'm going in. Are you coming, Scully?"
Before I could answer, Mulder descended into the darkness below. That's my Mulder. Jump right in, ask questions later.
I pulled my headset out of my pocket and turned to Byers. "We'll let you know if we find something. You just keep your eyes open up here."
"Yes, Agent Scully," Byers said as he handed me his flashlight and a compass. "Be careful."
I followed Mulder down the narrow metal ladder. It was dark, damp, it smelled and I stepped in something really strange. "Damn it!"
"Are you okay?" Mulder called, shining the flashlight in my face. I waved it away.
"I'm fine," I cursed to myself. "See anything Mulder?"
"No," Mulder whispered in the dark. "Scully?"
"Yes?" I answered, sloshing up next to him. I handed him the headset and compass.
"Trust me, this is not how I had this evening planned. By this time, we'd be asleep in my bed after we'd worn each other making love," Mulder said firmly. He kept walking down the pipeline.
"Maybe you'd be worn out," I replied. Mulder turned and stared at me, illicit thoughts running in his head. The warmth and security of his bed sounded very good to me. I turned my attention to the matter at hand. "I'm still not entirely convinced this isn't some wild goose chase he's been sent on."
"You really don't believe it's Esther, do you Scully?"
I thought about it for a few seconds, choosing my words. "Mulder, I believe that whatever artificial intelligence Esther and David created was real enough to track us down in Fairfax, before it killed her. There is evidence the AI might have survived somewhere on the net. But to believe whatever consciousness, essence that transcends the physical realm that is Esther Nairn was transferred and absorbed into the net...then, no, I don't. Let alone Langly being able to find her and recover her."
"I believe Langly believes it's her." he said, his breath a white cloud in the cold.
"I believe the AI has found someone else to play with," I replied.
There was a long pause between us.
"Did I ever tell you you're sexy when you're skeptical?" Mulder mused, flashing the light underneath his face.
Mulder lead the way, trudging through the tunnel. In parts, the water was deeper and my shoes were quickly becoming damp. I swear I heard things scurrying at my feet and tried to keep my eyes straight ahead.
"I think it was part of the factory, some kind of underground working environment. Look at the rails." He shone the light on the ground. As we moved, you could see wider spaces, almost like rooms. Pipelines ran along the ceiling. Mulder continued to forward, our flashlights casting all sorts of shadows around. We turned a corner and in the distance, there was a dim light radiating ahead.
"Looks like somebody's home after all," Mulder said under his breath.
I trudged back up to the surface and brought Langly and Byers down. Frohike agreed to stay above, just in case we needed him.
It was a room, with brick walls and a thick metal door. Langly charged ahead of me, his laptop clutched protectively in under his arm.
"It's like a bunker," Langly said when he entered the room.
"I'm feeling a bit claustrophobic, how about you, Scully?" Mulder asked, tugging at his turtleneck.
I felt trapped.
It looked similar to the trailer in Fairfax. There was computer hardware everywhere, only not nearly as much. The room hummed and pulsed. There was minimal lighting and a slight smell to the air, something familiar.
"It must be running it's new T3 from an underground connection," Byers speculated, searching the perimeter of the room.
"We don't have a lot of time," Langly opened the laptop "I've got a window of about five minutes before it will detect us once I'm in."
I watched over Langly's shoulder as he connected into the AI's system. A series of commands and codes flashed on the screen and eventually they descrambled into a visible picture that looked like a network diagram.
"What's that?" I asked, pointing to the flux of information.
"That's Esther," Langly said. "See? She's coaxing it off the net."
I watched as the lines shifted in color, fell into random patterns. A small window appeared in the bottom right corner. It was a bar chart, gauging a percentage.
"Once that hits 100%, it's been swept off the net," Langly said. He ejected a CD from the laptop and scanned the available hardware. "Which one, baby?"
I stared transfixed at the screen, monitoring it's progress. Was it possible it was her? Something was definitely interacting with Langly.
"Now is the optimal time to nail this thing," Langly said, choosing a CPU. "It hadn't had that much time to rebuild itself. It's missing several components."
"It's almost there," I said. "90, 92, 97. 100 percent, Langly."
The room burst with energy. The hard drives churned, monitors powered up, printers. You could feel the electricity. Everything seemed *alive.*
"It's here," Langly said. "I'm uploading the kill switch now."
It was in the air again, that familiar odor. I closed my eyes. What was that?
My mother's stove...when the pilot wouldn't light...
"Mulder," I exclaimed, recognizing the smell. "I smell gas, or what they put in it so you can smell gas."
Mulder concentrated and inhaled the air. So did Byers.
"It's flooding the room," Byers said. "There's probably a connection back to the factory."
"We've got to get out of here," Mulder said. "This chamber is small and compressed. It won't take long to fill the room. One spark."
"Just a few more minutes," he pleaded.
"Scully, you and Byers get out of here," Mulder said sternly.
"What about you?" Byers asked. After six years of working with him, I knew the answer to that question.
Mulder's eyes were locked into mine. "We'll be right behind you."
I tugged at Byers' arm, pulling him out with me.
Byers and I started running back up the tunnel. I kept listening for other footsteps. I only remembered the way since I had to get Byers and Langly, the darkness was deceptive. I saw the manhole and climbed up the ladder two steps at a time. Byers followed.
"What's going on?" Frohike asked as he ran up to meet us.
Byers quickly explained it to him, but I kept staring at the hole. Where were they?
"Wait, it's Mulder," Frohike said, holding the ear pieces against his head. Static crackled loud. "Mulder? Okay, okay."
"Okay what?" I demanded.
"They're coming, but we need to clear out," Frohike said, starting to run back to the cars.
Reluctantly, I started running. Damn it.
The explosion caused the ground to shake hard. I lurched into Frohike, who steadied me on my feet. My heart raced in panicked waves. I grabbed the receiver off him and shouted into mouthpiece.
"Mulder! Mulder!" There was fear in my tone, no matter how hard I tried to keep my composure. "Can you hear me?"
There was dead air.
Byers, Frohike and I exchanged glances.
There was a crackle of static. "Damn, that's was about a 6 on the Richter scale."
We all sighed relief in unison. "Mulder, where are you? Do you have Langly?"
"I think we're east of where you are. We ran up the opposite way, and there was a manhole closer."
Frohike fumbled in the pocket of his vest for a compass. "Due east is that way."
We took off, trying to approximate where they were. As we turned the corner, I saw Mulder and Langly standing in the alleyway.
"What happened?" I asked, running up to them. Mulder's eyes met mine and I sighed in relief. Frohike and Byers came around the corner.
"Yeah, what the hell happened, hippie?" asked Frohike, slapping Langly in the arm.
"I think it worked," Langly was breathing hard from running. "With the connection terminated, we forced it back into it's hardware. Esther collapsed the net, and it couldn't retreat. Recognizing an internal threat, it retaliated the only way it knew how."
"So, it's gone? Once and for all?" Mulder asked.
"Yeah, thanks to Esther," Langly smiled.
"Did she survive? Is she still out there?" Frohike asked.
"I'm not entirely sure, but she knows how to get a hold of me." Langly clutched the laptop protectively.
We finally made it to Mulder's shower, to clean up before getting some sleep.
"Frohike," I said, as Mulder scrubbed my back. "He knows."
"Knows what?" he asked, his hands rubbed my aching shoulders.
I turned around in the small space to stare up at him. His eyes were rimmed red and water ran down from his hair along his face in tiny rivulets. "He knows about us. About this."
"Oh," Mulder bit his lip in thought, then ran his soapy hands across my breasts, my stomach. "He isn't going to say anything, is he?"
"He promised me he wouldn't." My knees grew weak as his hands ventured lower.
"Of course he did, he'd promise you anything. He's been in love with you almost as long as I have," Mulder said, kissing me softly.
"The weird thing is, I think we came to a real understanding."
"Oooh, you and Frohike have called a truce?" Mulder's shower had a small ledge on the back wall, presumably for soap or shampoo. But we found it useful for other things. He lifted me carefully and set me on it. "Isn't that a sign of the apocalypse?"
"And Frohike and Scully will call a truce, it's somewhere in Revelations."
His fingers rubbed my inner thigh, edging their way up.
A wicked grin spread across his face. "How worn out are you, Scully?"
"I'm not completely worn out," I replied in a low, husky voice.
I pulled him towards me, and kissed him firmly. It was Sunday, we could spend the whole day in bed recovering.
Mulder deepened the kiss, opening my mouth beneath his. His body pressed deliciously into mine, the water and soap only heightening the sensation. Through the sound of the water, we heard the shrill ringing of Mulder's phone.
This time, they'd have to call back later.