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OTM sheildOUT OF THE MAINSTREAM

08-EXC

SCULLY'S CASE FILES

EXCHANGE.

from END GAME, by Frank Spotnitz

VACATION VILLAGE MOTOR LODGE

GERMANTOWN, MARYLAND, 11.31PM

Even before the sound of shattering glass subsided, Bounty Hunter strode over to look down on the small woman’s body. She was sprawled on her side on the floor amid the wreckage of the table, apparently unconscious. With an expression that conveyed neither malice nor compassion, his eyes finally narrowed; a problem had not been solved. He turned to locate the gun, found it almost immediately and slipped the weapon into his pocket. He then systematically took the motel room apart looking for any clue that would lead him to his quarry; in the end a fruitless search. He went back to the woman. She had been stubborn, but there were other ways co-operate.

Dana Scully hadn’t moved. Bounty Hunter knelt to check her carotid pulse, then grabbed her arm to heave her up and throw her over his shoulder as easily as a bundle of rope. He adjusted to the extra weight of his burden, turned and walked out of the darkened room.

OUTSKIRTS OF GERMANTOWN,

12.15 am

Total blackness, endless, all encompassing. The change came first from the far outer edges, moved slowly inwards and constantly evolved until grey. In limbo there was no sensation, no reality, only fleeting shadows, false images and past ghosts. Then, hovering close to a drifting plateau, flaring specks of light darted about in fevered patterns, criss-crossed and spun back on themselves. They in turn were obliterated by two deep violet fireballs that grew large and disappeared and were replaced again and again. There came the sound of low rustling and faint tapping, but the dark threatened to return. Scully fought desperately against it; a losing battle, almost.

Stunned, disorientated and bordering on shutdown, her senses struggled to recover. When her reluctant conscious finally registered her body’s systems and ordered them to stir she wished it hadn’t. Pins and needles. Scully uttered a waking moan and let her head loll forward. She felt terrible. Every part of her ached. Her left shoulder and hip were particularly sore, and it was much better to stay still. Her nose and mouth felt puffy and numb, like she’d been given a dentists’ injection. It was if she’d been a big cat’s prey that had been picked up and shaken than simply tossed aside. She suspected she was bleeding and tried to move her hands to her face but found their progress immediately checked. Alarmed, Scully snapped her eyes open. She

looked up to see that she was sitting in the front passengers’ seat of a car. It was raining lightly. Her wrists had been handcuffed through the loop of the armrest of the door.

Scully felt another presence and became fully aware of the huge man sitting silently beside her. Startled and instantly afraid she recoiled hard against the door. She had never seen him before and yet he was somehow familiar. He fitted the description of the Russian spy killer Agent Chapel had been looking for. He was dressed as Mulder had been. Mulder? She had spoken to him, but something wasn’t right. It almost seemed the man could read her thoughts when he said:

"You will contact him and give him these instructions," he told her, speaking quietly but with menace, in an indistinguishable accent that could have been anything, including Russian. There was a gun - her gun - pointed at her. The weapon was an instant reminder of how she got here.

After several abortive attempts to contact Mulder by phone she’d finally left a message on his answering machine to say that she’d be at the Vacation Village Motorlodge in Germantown where she intended to book a room. The events at the warehouse had spooked her a little, so she’d taken a much needed shower and then, just before 11pm and still no word, she decided to get some sleep. Fully clothed but within the restriction of the gun in its holster, (a decision she was soon to regret) she pulled the bedspread across her for warmth and settled down. She was just beginning to doze when the knock came. Mulder was at the door. She’d asked him where he’d been, but before he could explain fully her cell phone rang and she stopped to answer it. To her astonishment Mulder spoke to her from the other end, thus confronting her with a sudden and terrible paradox and a serious predicament.

Scully was soon convinced that the real Mulder was on the phone; his voice and manner of speaking were much too natural and familiar to be otherwise. Looking at the man who had entered the room she perceived the un-Mulder like expression on his face and noticed how he carried himself a little differently. She was unarmed; her gun still on the end of the bed. So she played him along, explaining that the phone call had been a wrong number as she inched to the bed. In a deft move she managed to get to her weapon and turn it on him.

Scully ordered the man to face the wall and get his hands up. She pushed the gun into his back, but following that truth be told, she wasn’t sure what to do next. There was an element of absurdity about the situation. Here she was with her gun in her partner’s back, at least a man who looked like him, but he wasn’t her partner, was he? The man kept talking, insisting he was Mulder and what was she doing? He pleaded with her not to shoot as he’d been shot before and hadn’t cared for it much. He told her he was going to reach for his ID. In retrospect, Scully knew that had been her mistake, but at the time the still vivid flash of memory of Mulder in pain and bleeding had affected her and put her off-guard. Aware of it she had tried to refocus and concentrate. Too late. He spun, and batted the gun out of her hand, and a right cross she should have seen coming struck her on the point of the jaw. The force of it smashed her into the wall, her legs crumpled beneath her and she hit the floor in a sitting position dazed and bleeding from the nose.

"Where is he?" the man asked. Through water logged eyes she could see the gun beside her and tried for it. The man picked her up like a doll and pinned her high against the wall; she couldn’t describe how much that had hurt. He held her at arm’s length in a near choking hold, feet dangling in mid air, and glared at her. Scully was helpless.

"That was him on the phone, wasn’t it? Tell me where he is."

She had to protect Mulder, whatever the cost. Something told her she was going to have to pay dearly. "I don’t know what you’re talking about," she managed to choke out. The wrong answer. The man literally flung her to one side. She landed on something incredibly hard and sharp which disintegrated noisily as she hit. The last thing she remembered was that there had been a glass-topped table in that corner of the room.

Scully reacted to that horrible impact even now, closing her eyes tightly and leaning forward. She had a hell of a headache. The Russian must have thought she was slipping back into unconsciousness and poked her to make sure. This got her attention and the gun made sure he kept it. He told her precisely what he wanted her to say. There would be no deviations. He wouldn’t accept any deals. She was to try no tricks; at best he would kill her, at worst he would hurt her very badly. To reinforce the danger he reached over, thumbed the blood from her nose before she could turn her head away, held his hand so that she could see it clearly then wiped it heavily on her anorak. Defiant, she looked at him squarely in the eye. She held a fierce determination to prove she wasn’t afraid, but a deep seated fear made it almost impossible. She was afraid. Too many unpleasant memories involved restraints - she actually harboured a physical abhorrence to them. It was enough to allow a moment of weakness.

"Please, do we need these?" she asked him, jerking the cuffs. He ignored her. He placed the gun into the pocket of his overcoat, started the car and took off fast. Without a seatbelt, Scully felt insecure and planted her elbow on the armrest to help her ride the sway of the vehicle. They drove in silence for some ten minutes. Finally he pulled onto the gravel shoulder of the road, turned into a break between a crash barrier and the woods and switched off. Scully had no idea where she was. In the dark and misty rain everything had a grey and shapeless appearance.

The Russian got out, walked around to the passenger’s door and opened it. Scully automatically swung her legs out with it so she wouldn’t topple. He released the handcuffs, grabbed her roughly by the shoulder and hauled her onto her feet. She could feel his enormous strength and she knew he could crush her as easily as a soda can if the mood took him. He stuck the gun in her neck. Scully willed herself to remain calm - it didn’t work.

They walked to a telephone booth and he pushed her inside. As the door closed the light came on and she could see her bloodied reflection in the glass. She turned away. With a hand she knew to be shaking she reached for the receiver and, using a credit code, punched in Mulder’s number. He answered immediately.

"Hello?" The sound of Mulder’s voice sent a wave of emotion through her and a cry for help she couldn’t voice.

"Mulder, it’s me." Even to herself she sounded afraid.

"Scully, where are you?"

"I don’t know, I’m in a telephone booth. He’s got my gun Mulder. He says he’s going to kill me if you don’t give him what he wants."

"Well, what does he want?"

"A woman who’s with you, He says you’ll know what I’m talking about."

There was a lengthy pause. "All right. Tell him we’ll negotiate."

Scully turned around, trying to keep out of the man’s eyeline. Maybe she could warn Mulder off somehow. The Russian moved with her. She saw by his expression that although he was allowing her some leeway, the conversation was taking far longer than he felt was necessary, so she struck to the ‘script’.

"He doesn’t want to negotiate. He says he wants to make a trade."

"Well, let me speak to him."

"He wants you to be at Memorial Bridge in Bethesda in one hour."

"Scully, I need time, I need more time than that." Mulder sounded desperate.

"Mulder -"

His patience at an end, the Russian cut her off, the light died as the door smacked open. He snatched the received out of her hand, took her arm and began to drag her out. The rough man-handling made Scully suddenly very angry, certainly at the Russian for putting her through this, but mostly at herself for her deficiencies. Her anger built to the point where she found herself resisting. She braced her feet and stiffened, and he couldn’t get her out as easily as he thought, his sheer bulk acting against him in the narrow booth. An opportunity presented itself and she took it. Scully twisted abruptly out of his grasp, spun sharply and dived between the door and his other arm, a tiny space only she could negotiate. She got past him before he could turn.

Without a thought Scully took off running and darted into the woods, expecting that at any moment a bullet would rip into her back and end the matter. So be it - if the Russian had nothing to trade then Mulder wouldn’t need to place the woman in danger. Leaves and branches slapped at her face and grabbed at her hair. She ducked and weaved to avoid them but in the dark it was virtually impossible. The most she could do was use her forearms as shields to fend them off and guard her eyes. The ground was treacherous underfoot, wet and uneven and dotted by clumps of slippery grass and fallen branches that threatened to snare her and trip her up. It was exhausting just to keep her balance let alone maintain forward momentum. In her desperate flight she had no idea where she was going. It didn’t matter. Behind her she clearly heard the heavy pounding, cracking, slashing sound of the Russian’s pursuit.

Scully stumbled, fell, got up, kept going. She dragged in oxygen and gritted her teeth from the discomfort but didn’t shorten her stride. Bursting into a small clearing she saw them - maybe 300 yards away - tiny beads of light blinking through the waving foliage. She didn’t stop, didn’t slow: there was a prospect of finding help. Still, she had no idea how far ahead she was or if she was ahead at all. She would just have to take the gamble, and veered towards the lights. The sound of pursuit abruptly stopped, immediately changing her plans. Scully’s tactical thought processes kicked in and she realised he was targeting her location to zero in.

Slowing, she threw out her hands to grab hold of a tree to brake herself and took up a defensive position behind it. The tree’s solid bulk at her back was a welcome reassurance and she allowed herself some respite as she leaned heavily against it, rested her head and fought to regain her breath. Clouds of vapour warmed her face. Closing her eyes momentarily she re-examined her current state of affairs. Bottom line, any way she looked at it, she was in deep trouble.

Unarmed, not even with her pocket knife, there was no way out. Evasion would be difficult but it was her only option. If she could get to the houses and was able to make a disturbance loud enough to bring the residents out or cause them to call the authorities, it might force the Russian to back off.

Scully’s night vision had improved since the strong light of the telephone booth and she could distinguish grey and black shapes through the mist. At least the drizzle had stopped. She scanned the darkness all around her, trying to get a fix on him, needing to know exactly where he was, but there was no sign of him.

The lights were tantalisingly close, too tantalising. Knowing this might be her only chance, Scully was in a dilemma, caught between caution and sheer desperation. The sound of movement on her left made up her mind for her. No choice now. She took off running like a sprinter out of the blocks, bounded over fallen timber and waded through shrubs impeding her way. She tried to keep a reasonably even line while presenting no definite target. The lights were ever coming closer. There seemed to be a walking path ahead that led to the road. Swerving and weaving like a running back trying to avoid tacklers she made for the path.

Suddenly there came a shot. The bullet slashed through the leaves close by her head. Scully instinctively ducked, teetered, managed to avoid falling and tried to get herself into some decent cover. It was scant here; the path had been cleared on either side and bordered with what smelled like pine chips. The Russian was obviously using the gun to herd her away from the lights and she turned desperately, looking fo any tell-tale sign. Unable to sight him she was forced to swing back into the trees. There came another shot and she dived blindly into a thicket to escape the 9 mil round. She landed heavily, awkwardly on her left side and couldn’t stifle the moan. As shockwaves coursed through her she rolled over then managed to crawl to the base of a tree where she collapsed and lay shivering.

Scully hugged the ground and told herself her body was reacting to the cold but she knew that was a lie. She had been shot at before. Then she’d had the protection of thick kevlar body armour and Mulder had been watching her back. This time she felt naked, vulnerable and terribly alone. A stab of pain under her ribs caused her to gasp. She drew closer to the tree and got as low as possible, acutely aware that there was something tragically ironic and shockingly unforgivable in being killed with your own gun, by a bullet you had loaded yourself only that morning. She clenched her fist until the knuckles turned white and silently cursed. Served her right, she had made a complete hash of this from the beginning. Her attempt to escape had failed miserably and she had only succeeded in painting herself into a corner. She closed her eyes as the exhaustion took control and unintentionally dropped her guard. She was so tired.

Perhaps if she stayed here, hiding, he might not be able to find her. The notion made her cringe; she was deceiving herself. He knew exactly where she was. Scully opened her eyes briefly and moved a little to try and contour her body between the tree roots. Of course she was uncomfortable, why should it be any different? Caught in the ebb and flow of circumstance it seemed to her that she was mostly battling against the tide. One moment just about able to deal with the situation both physically and emotionally then something would go wrong; you’d struggle on, overcome it, but another little thing would go wrong, and another - all the little things would pile up until the burden grew too heavy and the problems seemed insurmountable. It wasn’t hard to recognise the self pity and easier not to fight it. She chided herself, told herself to get it together, tears would get her nowhere and she searched for any positives, aware that she was allowing herself to spiral down into a pit of despair. She couldn’t afford that right now. She had to think clearly.

The damp moss began to cool her flushed cheek and Scully wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Not only was she wet through and mud spattered she was also hot and sweaty, a perfect combination for pneumonia. If only for that reason she had to get off the ground. The clinical, analytical outlook of her nature brought her back from the pit. She took a deep breath and, drawing her knees up, struggled into a kneeling position. As she shifted her weight from one side to the other she chanced a look. One thing was in her favour; since he hadn’t fired directly at her she suspected the proposed exchange was keeping her alive. But if she pushed him too hard he might decide it wasn’t worth the trouble. How far could she push him? There was only one way to find out.

Still no sign of him and Scully glanced back at the lights. They were more discernible now. Widely spaced and uniformed it seemed to be a corporate park judging by the bulky, sharp-angled buildings. To the right, something else and she narrowed her eyes to peer into the mist. She put a hand onto the trunk to push herself up on her calves to try and see better. Close by, a small drainage ditch led to a pipe which ran under a footbridge section of the path. From here it looked small, even for her. The thought of having to crawl through a storm water drain didn’t appeal to her at all, even if it was her only bolt hole.

While debating the pros and cons, the Russian’s disembodied voice spoke to her from out of the gloom: "No more warnings." An ultimatum; he was calling on her to surrender. The next shot wouldn’t miss. Scully dropped her hand into the crook of her arm to consider the alternatives. Alternatives? Two, neither desirable. The Russian sounded pretty close, out ahead of her, probably preparing to move in. She looked again at the ditch, concentrated on it, and rocked back onto her heels into a crouch. Staying low, careful to avoid any noise she edged crab-like to the depression and dropped down into it. There was maybe two to three inches of running water in the ditch. As she moved quickly to the pipe she looked back once. Was he following? No point in worrying about that now. The pipe was rough concrete, fairly old, moss covered and smelled mouldy and damp; she could only guess what it was like inside and screwed her face up at the thought. Putting a hand onto it for support she leaned in to check it out. It would be a tight fit but it was big enough she decided so she took a deep breath and went in.

Pitch black. Scully couldn’t see her hands in front of her face. Moving forward was difficult. Using the balls of her feet and hands on the walls to guide her, she inched along the trash-ridden, foul smelling pipe. The concrete was unpleasant under her touch, wet and spongy and a little sticky. She voiced her disgust and tried to keep her knees out of the water, bothered by the thought of broken glass and other debris. The last thing she needed right now was to be cut or otherwise injured. More than once she scraped her head and that was bad enough. Soon there came another concern. Above the noise of her own making, she could hear an ominous squeaking. One word came to mind - rats. The unmistakable, putrid, sickly-sweet odour of death that she knew so well, added to the stench. She tried to ignore the sound and the smell and focus only on what she had to do. But the rats had been disturbed. The squeaking turned to many screams of alarm.

Scully paused, filled with a sudden dread. A rushing, splashing sound coming this way. Why couldn’t the damn things run away from her!? Surrounded by dark and virtually trapped in the pipe, she couldn’t back out. She could flatten herself against the side, but knew that rats were able to run along walls up to a certain angle, so she was forced to cover her face with her hands, brace herself and hope for the best. Thank God they weren’t snakes!

Like a miniature express train the rushing grew louder, and louder. Scully had a mind-vision of huge sewer rats, dozens of them and she drew herself into a tight ball for protection. She didn’t have long to wait. They hit hard, unseen little bodies pounded into her, brushed against her, jumped onto her, even ran over her. Tiny claws like so many little pin pricks. Their weight of numbers almost knocked her over. Then nothing. The rushing sound gave away to the strains of her own heavy breathing. For a moment she didn’t dare move, not sure whether the rodents had really gone and totally overwhelmed by the terrifying, surreal experience. She shuddered and tried to regather her wits to press on but remained frozen to the spot. Finally the dominating need not to spend another second in the pipe spurred her into action and she continued with haste. The pipe began to define itself as the interior grew lighter and she knew she must be getting close to the end, but not before coming across the source of the smell: probably a small mammal that had been dragged in to be devoured. Holding her breath she had to gingerly make her way around it.

Once clear and back into the chilly night air,thankful that she was out, Scully checked her position and available cover. Trees and shrubs were plentiful. She knew he was out there somewhere but the corporate park lay ahead and she regarded it as an acceptable risk. Despite cramped legs and stiff knees she got up to run. She hadn’t gone two steps when the shot came. She felt the bullet zip past her ear to slam into a nearby tree. The trunk erupted, sending stinging chips of wood into her face and she went down as a result.

Even as Scully fell she tried to recover and get back onto her hands and knees. She succeeded in getting half way up when he crash-tackled her from the blind side. Her cry of pain was snatched away as she smashed face first into the wet leaf litter. Still she struggled and tried to break away from him. He straddled her, put a hand around her neck and squeezed to the point where she knew and further pressure would snap it. Crushed under his weight, unable to move or breathe, Scully finally, reluctantly, offered no more resistance. "Okay." A simple word of surrender and she realised a

large part of her was glad that it was over. He then moved to one side and threw her savagely onto her back.

She lay stunned, head reeling and for a moment Scully thought she was blacking out. All around flashing lights alternately washed the leaves with faint tints of blue and red. Before she could put a reason to this, the Russian reacted quickly to the new development, covered her mouth with his hand and slipped the gun against her chin. He flattened himself hard against her and trapped her with his right leg around hers. She tried to pry her chin off the still very warm muzzle and he told her sharply and in a low voice, "don’t move."

A small searchlight raked bright white light across the woods, brushed over them, swung back and winked out. Scully clearly heard the sound of a car rev up to move off. Red and blue … police … investigating a report of shots fired. Given half a chance she might have run headlong into that patrol car! Rescue had been within her reach. The realisation that it had been so cruelly stolen from her hit her like a sledgehammer and the affects were just as physical. She began to hyperventilate and squirmed and struggled in his grasp. Unable to get enough oxygen through her nose she forced her mouth open to splutter against his palm.

The Russian released her to lever himself to his knees. He pinned her to the ground with a huge hand planted hard on her sternum and brought the gun to her face. Resting it on her cheekbone he pressed down until it hurt. Scully swallowed hard when he cocked the hammer and shut her eyes. She waited… and waited. She tried to blank her thoughts, unwilling to consider death, but it was too much. A despairing sigh escaped her lips as she opened her eyes. Nothing had changed, and she could easily detect the quiver of fear in each laboured breath. The man glared at her stony faced. "I can so easily kill you." He spoke in a voice that suggested he couldn’t understand why she had run - why she had taken such an incredible risk.

"I know." Her reply was barely above a whisper. The Russian blinked, his expression softened somewhat and eased the hammer forward. Scully felt his fingers digging into her chest as he took a fistful of her anorak to haul her to her feet. This time allowing no chances he wrenched her left arm painfully behind her in a vice-like grip. She grimaced and leaned back into him. He put the gun against her neck to get her moving. Exhausted, despondent and unable to resist the inevitable, she let herself be guided back the car. The Russian pushed her in and secured the handcuffs, much too tightly. It was plainly deliberate. "Do we need these?" he asked her in a parody of her earlier question and slammed the door. Scully glared at her wrists and clenched her fists hard. She blinked away the tears.

They drove from the corner phone booth to a closed gas station not more than half a mile from it. He pulled up at the side driveway near the lubrication bay, switched off the lights and killed the engine. He got up out of the car after a few minutes without saying a word. Scully could see him wandering about the vehicle as if expecting someone else to arrive but she didn’t think that was the case. As if to torment her the lights from the corporate park were still visible in the distance.

Scully felt powerless, afraid, yes, but more frustrated than anything. All her training, all the skills she had so painstakingly learned to defend herself and subdue a suspect or neutralise an attacker still found her at a disadvantage in situations. She resolved to try and change that. She angrily jerked at the cuffs but all that did was to hurt her. She bent low to try and wipe her nose but he stood at her window staring unblinkingly at her, watching her every move. So she sat quietly, half turned from him, put her head back and concentrated on the dashboard clock. The bright green digital display showed 1.15am.

Scully mulled things over in her mind. She didn’t think trying to run had been a mistake, even if it had been a spur of the moment decision and a long shot. At first, alone and hurting, it had been the farthest thing from her mind. Her brief phone conversation with Mulder had brought back the perspective and restored her courage. Even now there was an understanding that, despite all, she wasn’t alone in this. Mulder would be working to get her out of it somehow. Still, this mysterious woman was a puzzle. Who was she and why so important for the Russian to go to such lengths to get to her? And what was the connection to Mulder?

The time past with excruciating slowness. Scully was freezing, her feet like ice. The Russian continued to stretch his legs outside, able to freely move about and generate heat while she had to deal with the cold, the constraints and the cramp confines of the car. She had already tried the door when he wasn’t looking only to find it locked and there seemed to be no locking button, apparently it had been ripped out. What did it matter? She had already given in. What he father have thought of her now?

Totally spent, Scully let the door support her, put her head back and closed her eyes. For the moment she was safe enough. Surprisingly she began to drift, a solid image of her father’s face before her. Years ago, they were together in an inboard motor boat. She remembered it clearly: he was teaching her how to drive it, she was having all sorts of trouble, getting it wrong, becoming impatient and discouraged, his voice saying: "Don’t give up, Starbuck. Never give up." Trial and error, persistence, working it out on her own and finally getting it right. His hug of approval. "Never give up," her father’s words echoed, and she couldn’t help feeling a little ashamed. Had she given in too easily? Her father had been the bravest man she had ever known, but he had also been the most practical. Never foolhardy, his courage had been tempered by wisdom. He had always considered the circumstances and weighed up the options, and had the enviable ability to

know exactly when discretion was the better part of valour. Through the years she had always tried to heed his ever-ready, always good advice.

Once, over dinner at home and not long after the Gulf War, the conversation had turned to Coalition pilots taken prisoner by the Iraqis. Even though most Americans had come to realise that POWs were forced to make public video-taped ‘confessions’ there was still an undercurrent of disdain and a suggestion of cowardice. Her father had been angered by such accusations. To him even in defeat they had secured a victory. She asked him what he’d meant. His reply came back now with a new meaning: "To survive is enough. You know, Dana, sometimes giving in isn’t necessarily giving up."

The words brought with them a warm contentment and Scully fell into a comfortable oblivion knowing she had done her best. She hadn’t realised she had gone to sleep until a rustle of movement startled her awake. The Russian leaned toward her and all the horrors were revitalised. She thought he was going to hit her and moved back, unable to stop herself from flinching. Instead he produced a wet cloth from God knows where and began to wipe her face.

"Who are you?" she asked, breathless, yet not resisting his ministrations. He said nothing, simply plucked a leaf from her hair, examined the cut on her head then tossed the cloth aside. He turned back, positioned himself in the driver’s seat and started the engine. Scully glanced at the clock: 1.30am.

OLD MEMORIAL BRIDGE

BETHESDA, MARYLAND, 1.45am

They approached the bridge at slow speed. The Russian eased off the accelerator and the car rolled to a stop. He dug a hand into his pocket and removed the handcuffs key, then stretched to place it into the lock. He left it there; clearly she could release herself. She did so but he thrust the gun into her ribs. "If you don’t do as I instruct, I will kill you."

Mercy in one hand, cruelty in the other. Already emotionally drained, the new threat chipped further into her severely shaken confidence. It didn’t help that the headache had returned and the cut had been reopened. With blood coursing down her forehead she simply nodded that she understood. They proceeded.

A car was already waiting on the bridge. Scully could see Mulder getting out of it. Oddly, seeing him only increased her anxiety. He had a passenger with him. The Russian pulled to a stop at a distance from the other car and switched off. He swung the gun in her direction again, and warned her with his eyes. He opened the door and eased out, checked all was to his satisfaction then reached in and grabbed her by the shoulder. With her own

door locked, Scully had to climb over to his side. One moment she was struggling to get out, the next she was in a strangle hold in the crook of his arm with the gun against her head.

"Scully?" Mulder looked very concerned but she wasn’t able to answer him. The Russian pushed her to the front of the car. His voice reverberated through her. "Bring her out."

Mulder turned to look behind him. A woman of roughly Scully’s own age got out of the car. She didn’t recognise her though Mulder seemed to know her well. The hold around Scully’s neck suddenly tightened and she found it hard to breathe. The woman walked cautiously towards them and paused.

"Step close. Right up close," the Russian ordered.

The woman exchanged a brief glance with Scully then advanced. To take hold of her the Russian released and pulled Scully away from him. It was very quick and Scully found herself almost running to Mulder, however, she couldn’t help but be wary of him, the image of him hitting her was still painfully clear in her mind. But his hands were out and taking hers.

"Scully, are you all right?" To him she was obviously injured, she appeared to be just about on her feet and not much else.

"Yeah."

"Yeah?" He wasn’t certain that was true.

"I’m okay." Scully nodded and pushed away from him. She didn’t want him to see her this way. It had gotten to her. She had been surviving on nervous energy. Now a paralysing weariness overcame her and she had succumbed to the ordeal just as it was almost over. All that mattered was the refuge of Mulder’s car and by the time she slipped onto the driver’s seat she was shaking uncontrollably.

Hunkered low and watching from the safety of the car, Scully saw the exchange falter and go terribly wrong. The woman tried to attack the Russian with some kind of sharp-pointed weapon. Mulder called out, a warning: "Samantha!" Samantha? He pulled his gun. "There’s no way out!" he shouted. "We’ve got both sides of the bridge covered! Now let her go!"

The Russian backed off, dragging the woman with him. "Let her go!" Mulder shouted again, but there was no way he could risk opening fire. A shot, heavy calibre. Scully immediately thought ‘sharpshooter’. The Russian seemed to be hit. He reeled back but his grip on the woman remained a steel trap and they both toppled over the bridge rail. Scully watched in horror. Mulder raced to the spot and leaned over. "Samantha! Samantha!" he was openly distraught.

Cars came from everywhere and screeched to a halt. Armed agents swarmed onto the scene. Overcome by events Scully sat stock still for several minutes then tried to get out of the car but her hand couldn’t find the handle. She fumbled and finally it sprang but she didn’t get very far. Skinner appeared and took her by the arm. He felt her flinch at his touch and she looked up at him with an expression of dazed alarm instantly mixed by recognition and relief. She seemed about to speak, lost the words and shook her head. Skinner saw the effects of shock and knew that she needed medical attention.

"Get Agent Scully to hospital," he told Robertson, the paramedic, who appeared beside him. Lost in a world of her own, Scully didn’t comprehend and moved uneasily aside to walk past him to where Mulder was standing at the bridge rail. Skinner gently restrained her, turned her about and helped her up the step of the ambulance. She didn’t resist. Skinner moved back from the vehicle and spoke quickly to an aide: "I want a boat and divers out here now!"

BETHESDA NAVAL HOSPITAL

BETHESDA, MARYLAND, 4.00am

Scully remembered very little about the ride to the hospital. The trauma room was clear enough, but even then it appeared two dimensional somehow, doctors and nurses talking to her, endless questions, poking, touching, discussing her condition as if as if she wasn’t even there. The paperwork was taken care of by another agent she didn’t know. And so she sat on the gurney and let them take care of business. There was talk of possible concussion and the need for sutures. They searched for identical injuries and obvious contusions. They examined her eyes, took her blood pressure, treated her for shock and patched her up. They drew blood for a full spectrum analysis and insisted on x-rays and a PET scan which seemed to take hours. Really, all she wanted was a moment to herself away from other gazes, some solitude to try and regain her composure.

Finally they left her alone. She was soon on her feet and wandering, uncertain as to why exactly until she realised that it was simply because she could. No one tried to restrain her as she walked along the corridor and finally stood at the window to take in the view. High up on the fourth floor, she soon became absorbed in the panorama. There was a fire off in the distance, the sound of sirens, and she watched as an ambulance pulled out of the emergency area to scream off into the darkness. The night time city was never totally at rest, somewhere events were always occurring and danger always lurking. Scully worried about Mulder.

She returned to the examination cubicle and took a seat to wait. She knew these things took time, but did it have to take all this time? Far beyond the point of exhaustion she was much too tired to sleep. Her watch told her it was 4.30 am, so she folded her arms tightly, stared at the curtains and tried to examine the events in her mind. Try as she might, nothing made much sense.

Skinner came to see her. She made to rise, but he motioned to her to stay where she was. "Agent Scully, how are you?"

"Fine, sir."

Scully didn’t look ‘fine’. While her face was clean and adorned with a plaster the rest of her looked like something the cat had dragged in. One thing was certain, whatever had occurred, she hadn’t been a passive participant. He suspected she wouldn’t have admitted to him how she really felt in any case and had made his own enquiries. Dr Deanne Matthews, the consulting physician, finally ran the list up to severe bruising, cuts and abrasions, shock and possible concussion. Enough trauma for anyone. There wasn’t much of her, but Scully was tough and determined to make her own way. She wouldn’t accept any special treatment or kid gloves. While his concern was genuine, he kept his distance, the way he knew she’d prefer it.

"Can I get you anything?" he asked after a moment.

Scully looked up at him earnestly. "Can you get me out of here?"

Skinner looked out the door briefly before turning to her again. "I understand they want to keep you in for observation."

"I’m all right! I’m a doctor, I should know." Scully spoke more sharply than she had intended and realised it. He ignored her outburst, seeing it for what it was and tried to make her see reason. "You don’t get over something like this in five minutes, Scully. To be honest you look just about all in."

Her expression lost some of its severity, but she didn’t lose her stubbornness. "I appreciate your concern, sir, but I can handle it. Really, I’d just like to get out of here."

Skinner considered a moment. He could appreciate her reluctance to be hospitalised again so soon. "I’ll see what I can do." He left only to return minutes later with a clipboard which he gave to her. These are your discharge papers and a liability waver. They need your signature."

Scully signed the forms and handed the clipboard back. "Where is he?" Skinner knew who she meant. "Still at the bridge," he replied. He wasn’t able to do much with Mulder, either. "Was it really her?" Scully asked, still in the dark as regards to Samantha’s sudden reappearance.

"Mulder seemed to think so."

"Is she …"

"They’re still searching, but neither of them have been found. It doesn’t look good." Skinner was well aware that in order to shed some light onto these proceedings he needed to talk to her at length concerning the case; about the identical men she had placed into protective custody and who were now were missing, and most importantly what the warehouse in Germantown contained. However, Scully was constantly looking past him with distant and glassy eyes, obviously having difficulty concentrating. It was very late, she was tired, badly shaken up, and this wasn’t the time to press her for details.

Scully looked up to regard him briefly then spread her hands. "I’m sorry, sir," she felt she needed to apologise for going against his instructions. "We should have dropped the case when told, I know, but Mulder -"

Skinner shook his head. "That doesn’t matter now."

"I lost my gun," she blurted unexpectedly, at a tangent.

Skinner almost smiled. Scully sounded both apologetic and as if she expected to be soundly reprimanded. "As I understand it you didn’t have much choice," he replied evenly.

Again she stared past him with a troubled distance. She frowned deeply. "He struck it out of my hand… I tried to get it back, but…" she trailed off, uncomfortable with the recollection. Just as quickly her attention returned. "Do we know who the man is?" her thoughts that he had been the Russian spy killer no longer held any weight.

"Mulder has his ideas." Her eyes asked the question, but Skinner just pursed his lips. "Perhaps you’d better ask him." He changed the subject to again try to appeal to her common sense. "There’s no need to rush things. It might be better to stay here, get some rest."

Her reply was quick and almost dismissive. "I’m okay." Skinner knew ordering her to do so would do no good. Finally he nodded. "I have to leave, but I’ll organise some transport to take you back to the bridge if that’s what you want."

She held his gaze and smiled slightly. "Thank you, sir."

Skinner contemplated for a moment, dug his hands into his coat pockets, turned and left.

Scully watched him go. There may not be any answers at the bridge but it was important to get back. Something told her that Mulder was headed for terrible danger and that his current quest to find his sister was leading him blindly into it. She was very concerned that things were not as they seemed. If she could have been deceived into thinking it had been Mulder back at the motel, Mulder could have been equally deceived about his sister. She didn’t pretend to begin to understand it, but these confusions made her all the more determined to try and find out. The fact remained, regardless of whether it had been her or not, Mulder apparently thought so, and yet he had still been prepared to risk all that implied to make the exchange.

Restless, she got to her feet. She walked into the nearby washroom and stood a moment to ascertain if she was alone. She was. At the handbasin she turned the water on hard and hot. She wanted to splash her face to try and wash away the ordeal - to get clean again. Pulling up her sleeves she hesitated. Two angry red bands were plainly visible on her wrists. She clenched her fists and the pain immediately returned.

Scully looked up and studied her haggard reflection in the steam-streaked vanity mirror. Suddenly she felt weak and sick to the stomach and had to grab hold to stay upright. Her hands shook violently against the basin as she screwed her eyes tightly to stop the tears, but she couldn’t hold back the sobs. Only one person could ever really understood. Scully desperately needed to be with Mulder.

--end of file--

C L Goodwin 1997

 

RETURN FILE TO DRAWER..