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Two high-powered flashlight beams cut a swathe into the inky blackness, dancing and darting as the holders negotiated uneven and cluttered surfaces. Their footfalls echoed in the cavernous space. Scully almost stumbled over a large half-buried terracotta pipe that she failed to see in time and cursed aloud. Mulder had been ahead of her for the express purpose of checking for just these unseen dangers. He turned and offered a hand to steady her. "Watch your step." His tone was light and totally unhelpful she decided and she looked at him with mild disgust. "Now you tell me."

"Come on, weíre nearly there." His voice dripped with impatience.

Scully felt he was toying with her. "Nearly where? This is beginning to feel like a wild goose chase, Mulder." She wasnít liking this, and not because of the dark. The place was dank, humid and foul-smelling, and reminded her of a tour she had once taken through an obsolete, below-ground concrete aquarium at the zoo. She trained her flashlight on him and saw him grin. "Not this time," Mulder answered cryptically. He turned from her.

They continued on, his flashlight sweeping their path ahead. The beam hit something then bounced off at a sharp angle. The unexpected result caused them to pause a moment. As they listened, dripping water and a steady, bubbling sound could be heard. For Scully, the feeling that she was in an aquarium increased. Mulder drew his weapon as a precaution. Something told Scully brandishing a gun here wasnít necessary. In fact it might even be downright dangerous and she kept hers holstered.

On a nearby concrete stanchion Mulder found a switchbox and threw the lever. The solid clunk brought with it a massive green glow a short distance from them as lights sprang on and they ventured towards them. Ahead a bank of tall holding tanks, backlit, free-standing and upright. Seemingly miles of pipes weaved in and about them, interspersed with valves, wheelcocks and other fittings. As they closed cautiously, Scully felt it necessary to rest her hand on the grip of her automatic.

A long, apparently endless, row of similar tanks tapered off into the distance. Mulder and Scully stood stock still, open-mouthed. Even Mulder hadnít expected this. Scully blinked in disbelief. Inside each tank a humanoid figure attached to biosensors floated in a green aerated liquid. They had long muscular-deficient bodies, large pear-shaped heads with black almond eyes, slits for nostrils and lipless mouths. The two agents finally found their feet and edged along the line. "I donít believe this," Scully shook her head. "Little green men?" She hadn't expected to come face to face with pulp fiction aliens.

"No," Mulder had already figured it out, "thatís the tint of the suspension fluid," he explained. "Greys, Scully, greys . . ." he added in a voice just above a whisper. "Reticulans?" The disbelief remained in her in her voice. He looked at her sharply. "Youíre not going to tell me these deformities are as a result of Hansonís Disease, are you? Look for yourself."

Bathed in a lime-green wash of light from the tanks, Scullyís face creased in a deep frown. She switched off and pocketed her flashlight, not knowing what to think. Mulder continued before she could speak. "E.B.E.s, Scully. Surely you canít deny the evidence of your own eyes?" Was there triumph in his voice? She had the impression that he would have danced for joy at this discovery. A couple of years ago he might have. His more recent experiences, however, had tempered much of his boyish enthusiasm.

"Extra-terrestrials . . ." her tone was incredulous. Perhaps Scully was still trying to convince herself after a lifetime of scepticism. Mulder had no such doubts. "One hundred percent genuine. No hybrids this time. Proof positive, Scully. The proof youíve always sought. Youíve done your homework . . . what else can you compare them to?" Her eyes were wide in wonderment and surprise. She was locked in a self-made battle of acceptance and denial. Yes, she had done her research, and although she had considered it a work of fiction, Scully had dutifully gone through the mound of EBE files to acquaint herself with the subject. Greys were commonly referred to as Zeta Reticulans, and were categorised into three basic types: A, average height; B, tall - 6 to 8 feet, and C, small, roughly 3 feet and over. Here in these tanks, though, there were even smaller specimens, child-like, and some as tiny as infants.

Scully surrendered to the over-powering temptation and tentatively placed her hand against the glass. It was cold to the touch and slightly frosty on the outside. The being inside jerked as if on invisible strings and she jumped back with a start. "Theyíre alive!" Suddenly there came a deafening surge of air and the hiss of valves opening and closing in quick succession. Flashing red dome lights switched on and every tank was injected with a red substance, a glowing angry scar that snaked its way into the tank and encircled the beings. "Damn!" Mulder looked about him in disgust. "What is it? Whatís happening?" Scully asked him with concern.

He shook his head. "Iím not sure. Some kind of security system - an anti-tampering device. You must have triggered it when you touched the glass. Look!" Before her eyes the bodies of the greys began to decompose and simply melt away: flesh, muscles, internal organs, even bones . . . Scully saw several react to the pain, their faces clearly showing the agony.

"Theyíre destroying the evidence!" Mulder shouted angrily. He raised his weapon and started to run. Scully took off after him, not knowing whether in fact there was anyone here at all and equally worried that with their luck theyíd run into a CIA elimination squad. Mulder skirted the tanks, using his flashlight to make a cursory check of each only to find that the same rapid high-level decomposition had begun in every one of them. When they reached the end of the line only one EBE remained undamaged, but Mulder knew from the discolouration of the liquid that it too was doomed. Behind them now, tank after tank began to crack and burst, spewing out their contents as nothing more than a stinking fleshy sludge.

With the weight of guilt upon her because she felt responsible for triggering the system, Scully looked about, determined to try and save the situation if only for Mulderís sake. Beside them she noticed an equipment bench partly in shadow and made her way towards it. A beaker of clear green liquid lay on the bench, two chemical test strips resting like spoons against the inside rim. The beaker was probably a quality control sample she surmised, and therefore untainted. She reached for it and the stainless steel surgical clamp beside it. "Mulder, give me a hand!"

Her insistent urging brought him out of his momentary indecision and with the aid of his flashlight they located the only discernible body part remaining within immediate reach and which they could rescue in time. Tragically it was the severed head of an infant. Scully raised the beaker to see if it further deteriorated in the liquid. To her relief it seemed to stabilise. Busy with this task she failed to notice the huge cracks appearing in the panel of the tank behind her, cracks which began to bleed a dirty orange liquid. Mulder, too fascinated with the process to have the sense to back away, stood staring in awe. When she realised what had happened and the imminent danger, Scully swung around and grabbed his arm, but he pulled free and attempted to cut in front of her. "No, save the evidence!"

But there was no time. Turning, Scully dropped the beaker, as she instinctively raised her arms to protect herself. Glass from the tank shattered in their faces, liquid gushed in a flood, the EBE, melting like plastic exposed to extreme heat, tumbled forward and came with it, and Scully found herself in a hideous embrace with the alien remains. Some kind of alarm went off, a bell clamouring. Her hands clawed at the air. She was being smothered.

Scully pulled and pushed at the same time, fighting off whatever it was that held her down and, soaking wet, she succeeded in getting into a sitting position, gasping for breath. It was only then, when she forced her eyes to open that she ealised she was sitting up in bed and the phone was ringing incessantly. As she reached for it she noted the bedside clock read: 11:21. Unable to shake off the effects of the nightmare all she could manage was a tight: "Hello?"

"Scully, itís me. How soon can you get dressed?"

"Why, whatís wrong?"

"Nothingís wrong, Scully. For once itís right. Iíll be there in five minutes."

"Mulder, wait. Whatís the rush?"

"Thereís something I want you to see. Evidence, Scully. Finally weíve got it. Five minutes." He rang off.

Scully struggled to get out of bed. All manner of thoughts raced through her mind. Images of the EBEs, so clear and overpowering, flashed before her eyes, and she found it difficult to think what she must do as her feet touched the floor. Evidence. For once in her life she hoped to God that she had simply experienced a bad dream. Evidence? As Scully gathered her senses and began to get dressed she wondered why she should be so suddenly shy of the word.

--end of file--

C L Goodwin 1997