Title: Journey 3/WIP
Category: MSR, angst, mytharc
Spoilers: The story happens early in season 7
Date: March 2000
Archive: Yes, but keep my name and let me know where it is, please.
Synopsis: The relationship has heated up, but Scully is troubled by something she hasn't told Mulder.
Disclaimer: Dana Scully, Fox Mulder, and the X-Files are the property of Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and Fox. But look, they've gotten themselves into a fix and I'm trying to be helpful.
Thanks to my science consultant, Beth (who bears no blame for alien science), and my betas Lone Gunwoman and Littljoe.
This is a WIP.
Click here for Journey, part 1
Click here for Journey, part 2
Journey, part 3
Bureau headquarters were quiet when Mulder returned, the time on the lobby clock just short of midnight. Under a single bright lamp, the security guard hunched over a book tracing lines with yellow highlighter. He capped the tip to check Mulder's i.d. and wave him through the metal detector.
"Hi there, Agent Mulder. Another late one?"
"Looks that way. What are you working on?" Mulder folded over the top of the brown paper bag Maggie had given him for the letters and tucked it under his arm.
"I'm taking a psych class for my degree. You ever have to do any of this stuff?"
"Yeah, I did a little."
"I used to think I was pretty good at figuring people out. You know, you pay real good attention to their eyes and what they do with their hands and see if that matches up with what they say. Always worked for me. Now I find out all these things your mind might be up to and you don't even know it." He shook his head. "Take this, what I'm reading about right now. All this social biology."
"Yeah, Darwin, evolution. Survival on the brain, I guess they're saying. You think everything we do is just an attempt to, well, you know, reproduce?" Arms crossed across his chest, he rocked slightly in the high swivel seat. The chair creaked with the motion.
"I don't know. At some level, yeah, the species wants to keep going and people do some pretty unlikely stuff in the effort. Fern bars, disco. It's the only explanation."
"Oh man, you are right about that. And going to chick flicks when there's a good game on."
"Yeah, chick flicks, too. It's been a long time since I've seen one," he bent to look more closely at the guard's nametag, "… Evan. But we make a lot of choices that don't…don't seem to have anything to do with perpetuating ourselves. Maybe work against it. If I were you, I'd be careful of people who try to boil everything down to one neat thing."
"Yeah, I'm with you there. Life never seems all neat and tidy, does it?"
"Chick flicks," Evan chuckled as he turned back to his reading.
Mulder's footsteps echoed off the tile floors and glass and concrete walls of the entry corridor. As soon as he turned the corner, he broke into a jog. Did every minute count now or none of them? Was there any sense in rushing forward when everything important was back? Would speed take him closer to some crossroad in the fog where she would be waiting? He'd known her coordinates when they packed her in ice. Each passing second had pocked his soul and when he found her, her eyes in shock behind frosted glass, he'd smashed the barrier between them. He knew her coordinates now. But the wall dividing them was neither transparent nor brittle and no simple race would take him to her. He glanced at his watch. 12:10. He'd left Maggie's at 11, traffic light, all the time trying to imagine Scully's shadow life apart from him, a woman in a restaurant, voiceless hang-ups, and a night that had never made sense.
Mulder stepped into the waiting elevator, hit B, and watched the doors shudder and roll closed. He was sorting through his keys as he made his way around the discarded filing cabinets stored temporarily in the hallway. A sharp click sounded in the darkness. In a dozen strides he reached the stairway door, and as he pulled it open he heard the shuffle of feet and the door to the main hallway closing. Taking two steps at a time, he was back at the first floor in seconds, but there was no one to see, nothing to hear. He walked back to the front entrance where Evan, sipping from a paper cup, said no one had passed.
Downstairs, his office door was locked. Spies and thieves. He could ask security who was in the building tonight, not that the records would reveal anything like the truth. The overheads flooded the room. Nothing obviously out of order, nothing strewn around, no drawers hanging out of the plane. How had they known he was on his way down? Evan? Evan chatting up psych theory. Well, Evan, how does this fit into the greater scheme of survival? Am I preventing you from making it to the next generation? He braced a chair in front of the door, then headed toward Scully's area. A stack of back issues of Science stood on the floor; he squatted down to put them in chronological order. One appeared to be missing. He checked again. August 17 was not there.
The library phone rang six times before the night attendant picked up. Mulder made his request and Bela Fleck flooded the line as the man put the phone down next to the radio and walked off. Mulder heard the other line ring but the attendant did not come back to answer and eventually the caller gave up. He looked up at the ceiling. If the damn surveillance was still on, maybe he could get a tape of who was in here. He'd have to find Skinner, though, and his secretary wasn't saying where he went. If she even knew. Skinner seeing as well as anyone the contours of corruption, believing just as Mulder did…no, believing just as Scully did… in shadows more real than the suit-clad bodies around the polished conference table. Suddenly Skinner backing off when they needed him. Having once looked down at his own bloody end, what frightened him now?
Mulder tucked the phone against his shoulder as "At Last We Meet Again" played on. He flipped through his stack of maps and unfolded Tunisia. His finger ran down the undulating coast to Sfax and on to Djerba, the Isle of the Lotus Eaters - dream state, prison of dreams - and inward to the emptiness of the great salt flats. He scanned his pile of folders looking for the UFO crash photos that had come in the mail weeks ago.
"Agent Mulder." The voice pulled him back, "I'm afraid that issue is missing. I assure you, this is a rare…"
"Not checked out?"
"No, I do apologize. I did a complete shelf check, you know, just in case someone was sloppy. We try very hard to avoid this sort of loss, but of course people like to have open access to the journals. It's very frustrating for us when something goes astray like this. I'm sorry, none of this is helping you, is it? Would you like me to get a download from the Internet?"
"Yes, absolutely. How soon can you do that?"
"I should have it in fifteen minutes if the printer is working. Sometimes it jams and all the paper comes out pleated. I swear, I wish they'd direct a few more resources our way, Agent."
"Then I'll be there in fifteen minutes."
The UFO photos had been in a blue envelope. Mulder pulled it from the pile. In his memory, the craft had looked as though it was adrift in a sea of ice. Sea of salt. He flipped open the folder to find it empty except for a page ripped from an old book. Sonnet 90. His eyes double-checked the label on the folder, then flitted down the page to the final lines:
If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last,
When other petty griefs have done their spite,
But in the onset come. So shall I taste
At first the very worst of fortune's might,
And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,
Compared with loss of thee will not seem so.
He laid the Science printout to one side of the other evidence atop his coffee table and pulled her address book from under the cushions of his couch. Opening it to the A's, he began scanning for Jeremy. Damn, if Jeremy didn't turn up, then he'd phone everyone with the initial J. Three a.m. It would catch them off guard.
Midway through her carefully printed entries, there it was: Jeremy Mercer. Professor Mercer. The guy who supervised her physics thesis at Maryland. He remembered the name now. Good physics department. The guy might have something of a reputation. He logged into the Internet and clicked his way to the department homepage. The faculty list turned up a photo and resume. Fifty-something, thinning blond gray hair hanging untidily over his ears, open-necked polo shirt, eyes magnified behind plain black frames sitting not quite straight across his face. He was flanked by his lab team, two grad students or technicians, one muscular, his Pearl Jam t-shirt tight across his chest, the other balding as if suffering fallout from too much abstract thought. Mercer worked in magnetic fields, quantum mechanics, unified field theory. Mulder flipped through the pages of Science he had collected from the librarian. There it was, Mercer et al, "Theory of magnetic fields and time: preliminary results."
He dialed the number listed on the homepage and imagined the phone at the other end ringing in darkness or maybe one of the assistants looking up from a glowing screen and turning back to his work. When the voice mail came on, he hung up.
Mulder picked up his basketball and lay back on the couch. He rolled it around his midsection. No point in driving out to College Park quite yet. Scaring Mercer wasn't going to do any good. He needed him to bring Scully back and it wasn't clear exactly what Mercer's connection might be to the binder Scully had found with her father's papers. Were there two Mercers, he wondered, one at either end of the pipeline through time, opening and shutting the valves in eerie unison? What did the old Mercer think the first time a body came down the tube from the future? How many times existed simultaneously anyhow, your past streaming out behind you like a jet trail across the sky, seemingly wrapped up but still there, still visible if you looked over your shoulder? Better sleep on that one. Sometime. He popped the basketball over to the leather chair where it hit with a dull splat and rebounded weakly over the arm. Skip the X-File. He just wanted to make sure both Mercers stayed on duty.
He covered his eyes with the pillow to block the light. Was the baby already born, he wondered, a pink or blue card waiting for him in the mailbox? If she went back three years and stayed wouldn't it have happened, just as the letters had all been written? That made no sense. It took nine months. She couldn't defy the clock of her own body.
He flipped onto his side. None of it made sense. How could Miss Grounded-in-Reality have abducted herself? The irrationality of pregnancy? Not Scully. No hormones possibly that strong. He shifted in the other direction. But it couldn't be denied. Not because of Maggie's photo, Scully standing in the kitchen sideways holding her shirt up and her leggings low over the belly. Taken the day before she left her Mom. What had Maggie said, 18 weeks? Yeah she was bigger, he'd said, he'd supposed, but he didn't remember her exact dimensions on that Saturday. He wouldn't have even guessed until Scully told him, let him run his hand over her stomach and feel the slight swelling, a fullness after a big meal, a child smaller than his thumb. Hadn't wanted to explain that to Maggie, though half a sentence spilled out. Not that their sleeping together was a secret now, but how do you describe your naked lover to her mother? No, the photo wasn't the proof. One last time, that's what she said.
He pushed up from the couch and got his calendar from the desk, stacked her letters in order, and began transferring dates. If the dates matched up, then she fled her mother's on November 12. She said she was coming back. Back through Jeremy. He'd know. Jeremy wouldn't have sent her away unless he remembered returning her to the present. He wrote Jeremy's address and phone number on the back of a business card, then slipped her address book into the pocket inside the frame of his couch.
"Hey, Mulder, do you have any idea what time it is?"
Frohike held the door open. He was wearing blue striped pajamas and a pair of beat-up leather slippers. "Why didn't you rouse your beautiful partner to join us for breakfast? Would have made it worth getting up." He reset the deadbolts and double-checked the video monitor fixed on the street outside. "What gives anyway?"
Mulder followed him across the room and put a large brown envelope on the battered wooden kitchen table where a stack of old bills, Chinese menus, and computer magazines sat at the fourth place. Frohike turned on the hot plate and inspected the brown crud baked onto the side of the pot. "You're in luck, my man, I'm going to have to make fresh."
"Don't bother. Instant's fine. I need your help."
"My coffee, my food, my help, and, need I add, my forbearance." The Gunman poked around in the fridge as he spoke, pulling out a plate of Danish with congealed toppings. "How hungry are you anyway?"
"Fresh coffee would probably be the best meal I've had all week." Mulder poked at the rubbery yellow cheese pastry Frohike had slid across the table.
"Well, you've never had to ask twice. Lay it on." He chipped at the coffee granules fused at the bottom of the jar. "Something hair raising going on from the look of you."
"Yeah, well, maybe. Scully has come up with some evidence. Not clear exactly what it's going to add up to, but we've got to pick it up."
"At a self-store in Rockville." The key he'd placed on the table bore tag 545. From the folder, Mulder removed the documentation she had enclosed with her last letter. "I'd be obliged if you could round up this stuff. Watch out for tails. Somebody lifted some photos from my office last night and I'm thinking there could be a connection."
"Care to give me a hint?"
"UFO stuff maybe. It's not clear. Maybe some secret military tests, but if that's what's involved it's probably out of date by now."
"You and Scully going to meet us back here?"
"Actually, that's the hair-raising part."
Frohike rubbed a stain off the edge of Mulder's mug with his thumb and filled the cup with water, steam rising. "What is?"
"Bringing Scully back."
"Somebody sent Scully back to 1996?" Frohike blew out a low whistle. "Man, no wonder you look wasted."
"Worse. She transported herself."
"Sorry, Mulder. You just passed the outermost of the extreme possibilities. We both know Scully is not about to undertake time travel."
"We both know it, but she did, and now it appears that her helper has been compromised. I'm on my way to see him now. Put him under protection until November 12th, so she can get back."
"Who is this guy?"
"A prof she worked with as an undergrad. Mercer at Maryland. Look, I've gotta get going. I want to be there when he arrives." The coffee stung his lips and sloshed over the edge of the mug as he set it down. "Damn." He shook the drops off his hand and inspected the spreading brown spot on his cuff. "Almost forgot. They assigned me a new partner. Can't find anything on her in the Bureau records. See what you hackers can come up with, will you? She may be MI like Diana. Where'd she come from? Who's she report to?" He tossed the card on the table on which the name "Angela Parker" was written along with her badge number. "What does she want?"
The muscular assistant answered Mulder's knock at B337 in the Physics Hall annex. The department's colloquium schedule partially obscured Mercer's name in gold paint on the frosted glass door and a hand-lettered yellowing sign joked "Heisenberg May Have Been Here." Somewhat reluctantly, the man let Mulder into a large room which smelled of industrial solvent and overheated electrical insulation. Mulder glanced around at the desk and bookshelves and disorderly stacks of paper on the floor. The assistant rolled a chair away from the desk, pulled a flannel shirt off the seat, and set it in the middle of the room. A balding man in the far corner blinked at Mulder quickly and turned back to the four computer monitors scrolling numbers and three-D graphics. "He'll be along," was all the larger man said before disappearing into an adjoining room. Fifteen minutes later, Mercer walked in, his smile stiffening as soon as he saw that he had a visitor. Mulder flashed his badge and the scientist glanced toward his desk.
"FBI? This is unexpected."
"Purely a friendly visit. I could use your help and I think you could use mine."
"Well, I'm not sure how. I live a pretty quiet life …"
"But not uneventful," Mulder interrupted. "I'm not a scientist, but I wonder if I could ask you a few things about your work."
"Has there been some allegation?" Mercer dropped his briefcase on his chair and turned away from Mulder to straighten his desk.
"No, nothing like that. I read your article in Science last night, the one about time travel…"
"A theory about the effects of magnetism on time."
"A theory, then, about sending people back in time. The article said you'd figured out the secret."
"I said that I had devised a way that the fourth dimension might be understood to be both continuous and bi-directional, just as the other dimensions are. Symmetry would seem to be violated if we did not allow for the possibility…"
"And you have found a way to reverse direction."
"We've…" he looked over at his assistant, "we think we solved some of the problems…"
"And you have shifted time."
"I wouldn't make that claim. You understand what that would mean."
"Have you gone back yourself?"
"It's all paper and pencil. A theory, an extension of Einstein, worked out from our understanding of magnetism and relativity." His eyes were bright, full of pride, Mulder thought. Baldy had swiveled in his chair and now watched the conversation, arms crossed.
"You have, haven't you?"
Mercer took off his glasses and rubbed them with a tissue from his pocket. Mulder continued, "I believe know my partner, Dana Scully?"
"Dana? Your partner? I… She…she studied with me a while back, more than a decade by now. Did a nice thesis. But it was a long time ago."
"Couldn't be that long because she's been to see you recently. I think she was interested in your work, too. Came to talk to you about it."
"I think I would have remembered that."
"I think so, too. I think you also remember sending her back. Did you tell her it was all theoretical or were you only too eager to show off your toys? Did she have to talk you into it?"
"What exactly are you suggesting, Agent?"
"When does she come back? You'll need protection until then."
"Agent Mulder, you surely don't imagine…"
"I'm not imagining anything. I'm saying I want her back safely."
"You're saying I sent Dana somewhere? Do you realize how ridiculous…"
"What's in those rooms?" He pointed to the doors locked with code cards. "Is this where the equipment is?"
"That? Supplies, old computers, records of our research."
Mulder leaned his ear against one of the doors and jiggled the handle. "When I was a kid I saw that time-travel movie, the one with, ah, Rod Taylor. Well, in that one the time machine looked like a chair with a big wheel. I assume the special effects are better these days. Open this please."
"Mr. Mulder." He was smiling now. "I assure you that the science I work on bears no resemblance to your favorite childhood movies. Dana could tell you that. If, and this is a very big if, if it were possible to translate my theory into a mechanism, the forces necessary to move an object of any size would be enormous. And as for moving humans, the body could not withstand forces of that magnitude."
"Let me see what's in here." pounded twice on the door with the back of his fist.
Mercer opened the door to the corridor. "You have been seriously misled, Mr. Mulder. If you'll excuse me, I have a class." He nodded once, looking over Mulder's shoulder. Mulder glanced back quickly; Muscle Boy had returned and was dialing the phone.
"Who else have you sent back? Who else might be lost if they decide to shut down your show? That's it, isn't it?"
Construction on Riggs Road slowed Mulder's drive from College Park into the city. As he inched forward toward the spot where orange barrels narrowed the road to one lane, he craned his neck out the window despairing at the flashing line of brake lights ahead. Slapping the heel of his hand against the off button on the radio, he leaned against the headrest and rehashed the conversation with Mercer, looking for a hole he might have leveraged open. He tried to picture his partner sitting in the cluttered office looking back and forth between her former professor and those two assistants. She would have been pulled right into conversation, talking about the physics without stumbling over any of the words, asking the right questions, testing what they said against what she knew. Her eyes would have danced over the equations instead of scrutinizing their faces, the sour look on the bald one and raised eyebrows and twitchy smiles the men must have passed among themselves. Which of them had escorted her behind the door where the machinery hummed?
A shrill blare from the car behind opened his eyes with a start and he eased ahead another ten yards.
When Mulder reached his basement office, there were two notes taped to his door, the first from Parker. "Agent Mulder, I'd like to deliver my report when you get in." The other a summons from Skinner.
The door clicked softly behind Mulder. At the polished desk across the room, Skinner continued signing papers, the faint shuffle of pages the only sound from either man. Vertical blinds across the large window subdued the afternoon brightness except where one slat had twisted and a thin streak of sunlight marked the carpet just in front of Mulder's foot. The shuffling sounds stopped and Mulder looked up to see Skinner roll down the sleeve of his shirt and button the cuff.
"I've needed to speak with you for the past week, sir."
"So my secretary said. You were out of line to badger her."
"I didn't badger…"
"I have other obligations, my own assignments, Agent Mulder, and may I remind you that I do not answer to you."
"You dump a strange agent on me and promptly disappear for a week. Under the circumstances I think I deserve an explanation. Who is she and what the hell is going on?"
"I owe *you an explanation? Has your partner returned? I don't think I've heard an adequate explanation from you about her absence."
"Agent Scully was able to… She got to her destination and she's fine. I don't need Parker."
Skinner rose and straightened the papers on his desk, tapping them against the surface. "Is it still too much to expect that you might be able to establish a productive working relationship with someone other than Agent Scully?"
"Not without someone telling me who Parker is. I thought I knew all the agents under your command."
"She comes highly recommended. Her record speaks for itself, I believe, and she can certainly fill you in on her background."
"Who sent her?"
"I assigned her to the X-Files and that should be sufficient. If you needed more information, I'm surprised you haven't checked on her yourself."
Skinner turned away and separated the blinds, squinting against the glare. The phone in the outer office rang just once. If Skinner's assistant answered, her voice was too soft to be heard through the heavy wooden door. Neither man spoke. Skinner surveyed the Mall, the view a perk of someone who played by the rules and played them well. Mulder looked from his boss, motionless in thought, to the small shredder perched on top the wastebasket, full of confetti strips. He cleared his throat and turned to leave.
"What case is Agent Scully working on?" Skinner's voice was calmer now and the angry edge had disappeared.
"It has to do with a UFO we located."
"You sent Agent Scully to inspect a UFO?"
"Not exactly, I…"
The older man sighed and let the blinds clack back together. He walked around to the front of the desk and paused before Mulder, scrutinizing his face, but revealing nothing of his own emotions. He continued across the room and held open the door leading to the corridor. Mulder set his shoulders and exited, not glancing at the other man, not needing to see any more of his boss's meeting mask: the sharp eyes that failed to divulge surprise, disappointment, pleasure, boredom, amusement, or lethal fury. The look that said we are both in the same place at the same time and beyond that you're on your own. Footsteps followed him down the corridor and Mulder quickened his pace. A light tap on the shoulder brought him around to face his pursuer. Skinner tipped his head toward a small alcove. Sorting through his keys, he opened the unmarked door and stood to the side for Mulder to step into the janitor's closet. Skinner turned on the light and leaned uneasily against the door. He exhaled one heavy breath.
"Other people know, Agent. They know where she is and how she got there."
"Who? Who told you this?"
"You should be able to figure that out. Don't give me any details beyond what I've gathered from them. What I don't know, I can't tell."
"What possible interest…"
"Could be anything with them. Just keeping her away from you is probably a damn fine reason in their book. My guess is that you'll be offered a deal. Don't take it."
"You said that once before, and then you…"
"I was right in the first instance. Keep looking for another way. Don't deal. It won't make any difference to the bastards."
"Well, I don't usually confer with my agents in this room, now do I? You can figure you're under surveillance, too."
Skinner rubbed his left wrist around the edge of his watchband. He flexed his hand three times. "You never know what's going to come down the pipes around here. When there might be a breakthrough, a crack. One of Spender's friends could slip up. Spender himself undoubtedly has some vulnerabilities." He straightened his cuff. "I follow the orders that don't seem lethal. The directives that leave me with a position. The game is all about position, Agent Mulder. I'm not ready to turn mine in yet. Not until I can take somebody down with me." He turned the door handle, then pulled it shut again. "You might want to start working on the cases I sent you."
"Agent Scully takes some priority in my mind."
"And you have a day job here." His voice softened. "You might find interesting things in your assignments. Get to work. Parker may be a spy, but that can work both ways."
As they left the janitor's closet, Skinner straightened his tie. A young woman with x-ray folders tucked under her arm glanced back at them and froze. Melody from the lab. She blushed and hurried on.
End of part 3.
Click here for Journey, part 4