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from LITTLE GREEN MEN by Glen Morgan and James Wong


29/6/94, 6.30am

The heat and humidity hit Scully simultaneously as she emerged from the plane. Even at this early hour the rail of the mobile stairs was hot to the touch. She took the surroundings in at a glance and gained all the information she needed. She was somewhat surprised by how busy the airport was, and then remembered reading San Juan had one of the highest passenger and cargo movements in the world.

Scully noticed immediately the C130s parked on the hard-standing near the maintenance hangers. At first glance not so unusual, the US and Puerto Rico shared a common defence policy. One aircraft bore the distinctive insignia of the US Marines, but the other looked sinister, with dark, ill-defined markings, and "black ops" came to her mind. A team of fit-looking men in unusual D.P. combat fatigues and wearing dark blue berets were unloading supplies and a light 4 wheel GS truck off the plane’s cargo ramp. Could their presence have something to do with Mulder and why he had come here, she wondered.

Thoughts of Mulder occupied her mind as Scully entered the terminal. She wasn’t going to waste time going to a hotel, instead she headed straight for the rest rooms where she changed into jeans, a loose fitting short sleeve polo shirt and sturdy boots. The news stand provided her with reasonable maps, energy bars and bottled water.

Just outside the terminal Scully found a rental agency, where she asked for a four-wheel drive that she wanted for off-road work. The clerk behind the desk looked her up and down as if wondering why she would need such a vehicle, maybe even doubting a woman of her stature could handle one, but he filled her request without comment. Scully studied the maps while waiting but became suspicious when the clerk turned his back on her to use the phone.

When the Jeep was finally delivered to the front door, Scully stowed her gear aboard, placed the maps and bottled water on the front passenger seat and jumped in. She had a little trouble adjusting the seat forward on the runners but finally got the thing to stay where she wanted it. She then fired the engine, gunned it and pulled out of the driveway.

So far everything had gone according to ‘plan’, not that she actually had one, however Scully couldn’t shake the feeling she was being watched. Had they pre-guessed her? Or had they merely alerted all possible destinations. Wired her photo and details, an All Points Bulletin "Be on the lookout for…" Possibly it was simple paranoia. Whatever the reasons she couldn’t help her suspicions after recent events. Taking precautions had become almost second nature. As a result, she kept a weather eye on all the mirrors just in case.

Sure enough, a shiny government-grey Ford sedan, totally out of place in this part of the city, slotted in behind her and kept pace. The problem now was, what to do about it? Her mind raced.

Scully didn’t need fuel but she pulled into the gas station anyway and parked away from the pumps. A glance in the wing mirror told her that the grey sedan had pulled into the curb a short distance behind her.

A number of possibilities flashed through her mind. She soon realised she wasn’t going to be able to get the guy out of the car. Maybe there was a way to disrupt his pursuit long enough to allow her to get away. She’d have to gamble that he wasn’t the obvious one of a tandem surveillance team. Somehow she thought she didn’t rate that much allocated man power.

Scully opened the door of the Jeep. She grabbed the map and walked boldly up to the car. The dark haired man of Latin appearance she judged to be in his late 30s. He was dressed in suit and tie and wore aviator type sun glasses and she was certain his eyes were glued to her every move. She knocked on the window and the man leaned across to wind it down. He drew his mouth into an expression that conveyed his surprise and confusion.

"Hi, I’m a little lost," Scully said quickly and as sweetly as she could. "Can you direct me to the Institute of Tropical Medicine?"

Before the man could answer she dropped the map and made a big production number of trying to regather it before it fell into the gutter. Bent down out of his eyeline Scully opened her pocket knife and plunged the blade right up to the hilt into the front tyre sidewall. With that she got up, smiled and said: "You know what? It’s okay. I don’t think there’s a problem now."

Scully turned on her heel, walked back to the Jeep and soon pulled out of the gas station. The car followed, but not for long. She looked in the rear vision mirror with immense satisfaction to see the front tyre go flat and shred. The car collapsed into its rim then veered off. She set her jaw, put her foot to the floor and headed out of town.

Oddly enough, not long later Scully found herself behind the same military truck she’d seen earlier at the airport and the passenger in the cab, clearly an officer, eyed her with a stony expression as she passed.

She drove out of the city with haste. An hour, an hour and a half, two. The Jeep wasn’t easy to handle, the off-road tyres caused a rather disconcerting vibration throughout the vehicle and the steering wheel rattled in her grasp which forced her to tighten her grip. Her palms were soon sweaty and her fingers stiff and she felt a faint cramp across the top of her shoulders and down her back. But despite these minor irritations, Scully liked the feel of power rumbling away under the hood.

Driving west she passed cultivated crops of tobacco and coffee beans, orchards and fields of sugar cane. All this produce made her hungry, so she devoured two of the energy bars one after the other, and took a generous swig from the water bottle. It was hot in the cab and Scully was feeling the heat. On more than one occasion she had to wipe the sweat from her eyes with the back of her hand. There didn’t even seem to be a drop of temperature when she hit the mountains. If anything it was hotter. The mountains, she had read, were covered by dense forests that consisted primarily of sandlewood and ebony. The scenery was beautiful, no doubting it, but she wasn’t here to sight-see. She followed the map and the infrequent signs to Arecibo. Mulder would be there, she was certain. The chance of contact would have drawn him like a magnet.

Dr Troitsky at the US Naval Observatory had refreshed her memory. The Arecibo Observatory was the largest semi-steerable radio telescope in the world. It consisted of a 1000 foot diameter hemispherical reflecting dish surmounted by a high set feed-arm antenna and was built into a natural pre-existing, bowl-shaped valley in the remote north west. Until recently it had been operated by Cornell University for the National Science Foundation and had been heavily involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence program. However, as far as she knew SETI had been shut down. No one seemed interested any more… no one except Mulder.

Scully pulled over to drink some of the water and to rest her hands. Using her thumbnail, the map told her the rear gate to the site was ten miles away if she turned left at the next crossroad. A sharp right, would lead her directly to her destination. She didn’t think she had time for a detour and after her short break, she hauled back onto the road with her decision made. Twenty minutes later she came across the intersection as promised and pulled the Jeep into the right turn without even slowing down, leaving a cloud of dust in her wake.

There was evidence of a wild wind storm some time in the last few hours: trees stripped bare, leaf litter everywhere, fallen, splintered lumber, and there was the feeling of static electricity in the air. But ahead, as Scully peered into the distance, strange… not storm damage. This was something different. Peculiar, eerie.

Just off the road there was an area of tremendous devastation and as she approached there came the distinctive tang of burnt grass, mixed with another, almost toxic odour she could not identify. Curious, Scully slowed and then stopped the Jeep to investigate. She got out with caution and negotiated her way through the wounded trees, pushing off the survivors with her hands to propel herself forward and maintain balance. She used her boots to force a path through the fractured and stripped wood until she found herself in a clearing. There was no sound. No birds, no insects. Only the noise of her own heavy breathing.

Here the trees weren’t blown over, they were crushed, snapped off at the base, compressed. Saplings and badly singed grass had been tangled and woven together to form a matting with a pattern that swept out from the centre to the outer edges. Even from her position at a slightly distorted angle, she could see the clearing was circular in shape, as if a giant wind vortex had created it. It made her highly uneasy. She felt her knees go weak. She’d seen something like this before. She couldn’t help it, the sight spooked her. Scully got out of there as fast as she could.

She pushed the Jeep hard, eager to have this thing over with. She felt a need to keep scanning the sky with no idea for what exactly. Scully couldn’t explain it and felt foolish but continued to do so nevertheless. She was on top of the entry gates before she even realised it.

To her dismay, however, she found the gates to the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Centre chained. Scully rattled the padlock angrily and was sorely tempted to kick the gates and let go to her dark mood. She didn’t have a bolt cutter, no tools at all other than a tyre lever, and that would be totally useless. She brought her hands to her hips, sighed heavily in disgust and debated a moment, uncertain what to do, but it soon became apparent that there was only one thing to do.

Scully got back into the Jeep and reversed a short distance. She yanked on the handbrake, selected first gear and eased the clutch up as she revved the engine until she could feel the Jeep fight the brake. She glared at the gates, tensed her shoulders and arms and then abruptly released the handbrake as she popped the clutch then planted her foot. The Jeep sprang forward at speed, broke the chains and flung the gates wide as she crashed through, and Scully kept going without looking back.

The road to the control room was rough and rutted by tyre trenches. Everything appeared abandoned. The hungry tropical jungle had quickly reclaimed the site which was now covered in vivid plant life. When it finally came into view, the control room itself was overgrown and badly in need of repair and a fresh coat of paint.

Scully drew the Jeep up to the front of the building and switched off. The door was open, but no light came from inside. She grabbed the torch from her kit and went in. Framed in the doorway, she scanned the interior with the beam. The place was in shambles. It smelt musty and damp. She entered slowly. Some of the consoles and equipment were covered by plastic sheeting, others weren’t. Nothing was working. Discarded printout lay scattered everywhere. She stepped on something, and picked it up. A hand-held cassette recorder. Mulder’s.

Scully moved the torch forward. On the floor, next to a large, uncovered console he lay on his back. He appeared unconscious - or dead. He looked dead. Her heart pounded as she bent down, and played the light across his face. She went to reach for him. Suddenly his eyes fluttered open.

"Oh, I was sure you were dead," she sighed, relieved. He seemed groggy and confused. "Mulder… it’s Scully. Dana Scully. Do you know where you are?"

Mulder acted as if he’d been woken from a nightmare. He was disorientated, frightened, then he recognised her voice and reacted to it. He grabbed her arm, she took his and helped him to his feet. He placed his hands on her shoulders to steady himself.

"They came, Scully. They were here…the ones that took her." His eyes were wide.

She somehow understood his cryptic explanation. "They were here?" she asked and indicated the control room, but then put a hand to his forehead, "or here?"

He broke away from her in his excitement, to show her what he had found, and moved to the reel to reel tape recorder.

"The tape… evidence… proof," he rambled, "the transmission… it’s all here."

Scully was surprised, but still cautious as she followed him to the tape recorder. "Proof of what?"

Mulder turned from her, crouched to attack the pile of printout on the floor and pawed through it, desperate to find the right place. "Contact… in these printouts… it’s here." He had trouble finding it again and became frustrated. Suddenly he remembered he had other evidence. He got up and pulled the upturned table over. Scully was shocked. Hard up against a console lay the body of a Puerto Rican man.

"And the man," Mulder went on, breathless. "We’ll have to examine the body… there’ll be more proof."

Scully was about to protest but didn’t get the chance, as the room started to tremble from a vibration under their feet and a low rumble could be heard from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Loose objects rattled loudly. She turned to look at Mulder. He was standing still, tense. Scully recalled the circle of devastation she had seen in the forest. Could it be possible? Had they come back. "Is it them?" she asked, unable to hide her trepidation.

Mulder waited, but it didn’t feel right. He listened hard, felt the vibration. He would never forget the experience, the horror. He knew.

"No, this isn’t it, " he reassured her. He found the binoculars and hurried outside, already associating the sound to a heavy vehicle.

Scully stood stock still, a lot concerned and even a little scared. She couldn’t put the sight in the forest from her mind. This was beyond her experience. She glanced at the body. The poor unfortunate man. Dead. From what? What the hell was going on? Mulder returned. He was highly agitated.

"Blue Berets… crash retrieval team," he explained quickly. Scully now understood the significance of the military unit she had seen earlier. But Mulder was clearly scared. "They’ll kill us," he warned and pushed past her. "Help me with the body." He bent down to the dead man.

"We don’t have time." She told him flatly.

Mulder finally realised Scully was right and reluctantly left the body, only to attack the printout once more. The sound of the truck grew steadily louder as it climbed the hill and Scully moved to the door. "Mulder we have to go!" Her warning fell on deaf ears as he hastily tried to find his evidence. Scully knelt beside him and squeezed his arm hard.

"Mulder… evidence is worthless if you’re dead!"

Her words finally stuck a chord in him and he got up. They moved to the door together, but again he turned back. Scully tried to stop him but he pulled free of her grasp. Exasperated she looked on as he ripped the tape reel off the recorder and finally rejoined her at the door. They ran out of the control room toward the jeep. Mulder took the driver’s seat. A military truck pulled up behind them, blocking the only access road. There was no way out now except through the forest. Without missing a beat Mulder started the engine and planted his foot. He crashed through a wooden fence and roared off as several soldiers of the CRT took up positions and started firing.

Scully ducked and took cover as the rear window exploded. Mulder reacted but he didn’t slow down. He reached over to put a hand on her back to keep her from getting up as more rounds smacked into the vehicle. Mulder gritted his teeth, tore downhill through the forest, zig-zagged through trees and simply knocked saplings aside. He lost sight of the truck but knew the CRT would try to cut them off. He had to maintain speed. Rocks weren’t a problem, he simply bounced the Jeep over them. Scully raised her head to see what was happening, and wished she hadn’t. They were cutting a swathe through the forest. Leaves and branches slapped at the windscreen and scratched the side panels like fingernails down a blackboard. It was hairy rollercoaster ride. Mulder crashed through another fence, the Jeep skidded dangerously but he managed to keep it under control, just about. They kept going.

The Jeep shot over a ridge and narrowly missed a huge half-buried boulder and Mulder battled the wheel. Scully was thrown against the door hard and banged her shoulder. She silently cursed and called Mulder’s name but his expression told her he would stop for nothing. He simply shifted gear and went faster, and she clung onto the dashboard for dear life. They clipped a tree.

Somehow the Jeep held together and they finally cleared the forest. Mulder pulled the wheel hard over and they surged down an embankment and onto a dirt fire trail. He followed the trail for a while then hauled the Jeep over a ridge and then down again onto a wide dirt road that Scully recognised as the one she’d travelled on her way in to the observatory. It was a much smoother ride and she was able to turn in her seat to see if they were being followed. Even if he couldn’t see it, Mulder knew the truck was there, and kept the accelerator flat to the floor. Choking dust filtered in through the windows and into Scully’s mouth. She was hot, tired, shaken up and more than just a little bit scared. She looked at the tape reel on the floor at her feet and hoped to God it was worth all this…

--end of file--

C L Goodwin 1998