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She had no idea where she was or how long it had been. All she did know for certain was that she was in a hell of a predicament. Bound and gagged and dumped with little dignity into the trunk of her own car, all sense of time had been taken away. Even the face of her watch had been obscured by the bonds. With so much else to worry about she wondered why she should be so preoccupied by time, but not knowing the time made it seem like you were strangely adrift, lost in limbo and cut off from everything.

Because the feeling persisted and again needing some kind of perspective she did another calculation. As near as she could estimate it was nearing mid-day, or maybe a little later, but it was really only a guess and not much of an educated one. She had to admit to herself she just didn’t know.

Cramped and uncomfortable in the confining storage space, Scully had been imprisoned in virtual darkness. The overpowering effects of the exhaust fumes and motion sickness as a result of Duane Barry’s maniacal driving, had weakened her to the point where she had retched several times against the gag and she could still taste the blood from the cut inside her mouth. She tried to move again, but the thin rope dug sharply into her ankles. She knew they were already lacerated. She felt the first tingling of near-numbness in her feet that caused her to worry about a permanent loss of mobility, and hinder any possible attempt to escape.

Scully was fidgety and unable to keep still. She had to fight for every single breath. Her back and neck began to pain her and she couldn’t turn sufficiently to shift the weight off the point of her right shoulder. The strain centred around the collarbone and the 4th and 5th cervical vertebrae. If that wasn’t enough the pressure from her lower jaw compounded to fuel the stress headache she was now experiencing. Removing the gag had been unsuccessful; the scarf had been tied too tightly.

Trying to force her thoughts away from her growing physical discomfort was equally unsuccessful. A vicious circle. The more you tried to not to think about the misery the more you did. She wished she could sleep. At least then she could escape the harsh reality. She was exhausted but she was her own worst enemy in any attempt to relax. A hyperactive imagination simply wouldn’t allow her to. Earlier, Duane Barry had been listening to the car radio. That had helped. The high volume and the thumping of the rear speakers to the beat of the rock station had given her a tangible distraction to focus on. Not so now; nothing but the rattling of the chassis and the muffled whine of the tyres. Alone and in distress it was too easy to slip into self-pity and allow the freefloating anxiety to take over.

She brought her hands to her face to wipe her eyes and to calm herself, but it did no good. The blood raced through her veins unchecked and her heart beat so hard she had an impossible notion that it would explode in her chest. Her face was flushed and yet she felt cold and clammy. There came an occasional uncontrolled shiver. She knew what it was . . . fear.

Scully had been afraid before - very afraid. While it was something you never got used to, you learned to accept. Jack Willis, back when she knew him simply as her tactical instructor at the Academy, had tried to impress upon her how to use fear almost as a tool, how to ride the adrenalin rush and control it, turn it to your advantage. Fear heightened awareness and conscious thought, but the key to it was reaction time. Too slow and you’re dead. Had she been too slow?

There was always that element of self-immortality; that it couldn’t happen to you. The feeling could be strengthened knowing you had the means to fight back. A leveller - a gun in your hand and knowing how to use it put you at least on equal footing and seemed to quell the fear to some extent. This time there was no such support and she was afraid - afraid she would die.

Scully was more certain now of the fact than when first abducted. Duane Barry’s cold blooded killing of the police patrolman proved it. He had crossed the line from simple desperation to calculating ruthlessness. Ironically the sound of the siren had given her hope. Fleetingly. Her own stupid, panic-driven act to call for help had been the cause of the man’s death. Knowing that Duane Barry had used her gun as the murder weapon had led her deeper into despair and an inexplicable sense of guilt.

She would have given anything to change what had happened. Now, forever impossible. When he had opened the trunk she thought he would kill her there and then, too. However, it seemed there was another purpose for her that required her to be, if not necessarily well, at least alive and kicking. Why? Where the hell was he taking her? What did he intend to do when he got there?

Despite all she had seen and heard and knowing his background, she felt he wasn’t entirely to blame. Duane Barry had been one of the good guys - a hero with an exemplary FBI record. He had been shot in the head in the line of duty which resulted in some degree of brain damage. The injury caused him to suffer severe delusions and he was now very probably a pathological liar. None of it had been his fault. Still, she had first hand experience of his resultant violent behaviour, there was no getting around that. Yet she felt some pity for the man, even if resenting the rough treatment. If she could appeal to his sense of compassion, perhaps he could still be reasoned with. Both of them understood what it meant to be a victim. Scully was in a dilemma. How can you fear and hate and pity someone all at the same time?

How he even got this far was a mystery to her. The man had taken a rifle bullet in the chest . . . he should still be in the I.C.U. for God’s sake, let alone on his feet! What driving force was leading him to take such risks? Why did he choose her? Unanswerable questions. . . And so it was a waiting game.

Scully couldn't judge how long it had been since the shooting or how far they’d travelled. For some time now. From the swerving motion of the car she guessed that the road was now winding, perhaps upwards, but she couldn’t be sure. She thought the air had grown colder. The vibration around her abruptly increased and fine dust filtered into the trunk. They must have left the surface road and gone onto gravel. Finally the car stopped and they waited. The radio came to life again. No music this time. The volume was too low to hear clearly. Only the engine idling in park and the radio broke the silence.

Her thoughts turned to Mulder. She couldn’t explain why but she sensed him close, searching for her. He would be too late this time, and she was on her own. She remembered their last conversation, how disappointed he was that she didn’t see the evidence of the implant as he did, that she didn’t believe his contention that Duane Barry was an abductee. Now she wouldn’t get the chance to tell him that he might have been right.

At first she thought the piece of metal might have been shrapnel. Duane Barry had done a tour of duty in Vietnam. Ballistics couldn’t prove its origin one way or the other. Analysis did find the minute stamping. A bar code? Her hunch to run the implant over the supermarket scanner had been fortuitous. She seemed to know instinctively that there was a connection. Even so, she was still shocked to see the scanner go bezerk and the numbers come up on the display serial numbers; like they were using the implant to catalogue him. Whoever they were.

Scully heard the catch spring from the inside and automatically flinched. The trunk lid opened to darkness and drizzly rain. The night air hung cold and misty. She fought back the panic and the wave of nausea that threatened. She suddenly felt the need to leave Mulder a solid clue, some indication of what happened. She reached for the cross, pulled the chain from her neck and let it fall. If the end was to come, she wanted to leave behind something of herself. It was the only gift she could give him.

Duane Barry appeared. "It’s time. We gotta go." He leaned in to untie her ankles.

Scully moved unsteadily, the pins and needles in her feet were painful. She couldn’t counterbalance with her hands tied and Duane Barry had to practically carry her. Through shrubs and down off a small knoll before climbing again, they walked a little way to the top of the mountain. In a clearing he stopped and searched the sky. He seemed to spot something. After a moment she saw it too. High above the level of the treeline, through the cloud layer a haloed light source began to move. For Scully the words Nocturnal Light sprang to mind. He turned her by the shoulders to face him directly. His expression mixed concern and jubilation. "I’m sorry. It’s nothin personal, y’understand. It’s the deal. You for me. Don’t y’see, they’re not takin’ Duane Barry again."

Out of the sky there came a loud, cutting whisper and a brilliant white light. Duane Barry forced her to kneel and covered her with his arms protectively, shielding her with his body as he knelt in front of her. There came a sudden heat and he held her closer to him. She couldn’t see, but with her head against his chest she felt his heart beating as fiercely as her own, and he seemed just as confused. He smelt of blood and sweat.

Suddenly, a violent downdraft of wind, and whatever it was, was on the ground now. The glare was much too bright and all she could see were vaguely human-shaped silhouettes moving back and forth against the light. They quickly placed her on a stretcher and strapped her down. She couldn’t fight them; their hands and arms were much too strong. They cut the gag from her mouth and an oxygen mask was put into place. The slightest pin-prick in her hand and then almost immediately she couldn’t keep her eyes open. Scully began to drift towards unconsciousness. She felt herself being lifted and loaded into the craft. Her ears were pounding. She thought she heard an alarm but the sounds were all screwed up. She felt no pain. Someone placed a hand over hers and wanted to know if she was all right. Scully couldn’t help but flinch at the touch. The hand didn’t feel human.

Unshed tears welled in her eyes as the realisation set in. She couldn’t resist. She had to trust them. She was powerless . . .

--end of file--

C L Goodwin 1997