JUNE 20, 2015
The end wasn’t supposed to come this way.
They had planned for it for years, of course, but he should have known the federal government couldn’t get their heads out of their asses long enough for something even as important as the beginning of the new world order to go according to plan.
But there’s always a new plan, Robert Mosely thinks, frowning at something off in the distance.
It’s night; the air is sharp, whipping about his face, bringing with it sand and dust and dirt from the rocks that litter the New Mexico desert. Behind him, the gray-black box of the compound looms like a patch, joining the desert horizon with the matte dusk sky.
Like Noah gathering the animals, he’s drawn them here and granted them safety and shelter, one by one, often hunting them down in the midst of suburban ruins. The last of them are settled inside, learning about life after death.
His kind are easy to find…but these new ones are a mystery.
It’s obvious they’ve traveled together, covering for each other. Mosely can sense their hesitancy. There’s something about the boy, in particular, that makes Mosely think they’re hiding something.
He stares into the night, as if studying the horizon line will bring the missing connection to bear, but no such luck.
The man and woman aren’t like the rest; he knew this right away, knew it even before they arrived, when Jay casually suggested checking out the campers at the far end of the compound’s border.
He would know if they were survivors, like him, and this lingering fact gnaws at him. How can they be immune?
With a sigh, he returns to the gray structure. Only two men are on patrol tonight; there’s no need for an army out here amongst the rocks, the great red expanse of magnetic material that keeps the monsters at bay.
He’s all too familiar with the monsters; he’s spent years studying them, studying the virus that births them, a secret kept in darkness that was not yet ready to see the light.
But the light lets itself in, Mosely thinks, a thin smile on his lips. It always does.
None of them understood what was happening. They’d been raised as human, though there was very little human about them, save for their appearance and their resistance to the virus that had consumed the rest.
But even that couldn’t save them, not entirely. Of anything left on this earth, they could resist, but they couldn’t fight.
There was no point in living in the middle of the food chain, but the will to survive was a strong burden to bear, and they had been created with the drive just as any other flesh and blood human being. Their drive to live might have been stronger. He’s considered this at times, peering at his own genetic map.
The halls are quiet. Mosely’s walk is calm, unhurried, but thoughts of the newcomers won’t let him go.
He finds himself in the room he’s come to consider his office; simple, with a desk, a chair, a salvaged floor lamp that he flicks on. He pulls open a drawer, thumbs through the files within, and plucks one, laying it flat on the desk. Clipped to the top is a photo of a young boy, about three or four, smiling shyly into the camera.
Mosely frowns, letting his fingers trace the shape of the boy’s ears, the nose…the eyes give him pause.
It’s the eyes, he thinks, sitting back. He has the same eyes.
He was supposed to be dead, Mosely reasons. Something about an abduction, a kidnapping, an accident in the woods.
Have I found you? he wonders, putting the file away for future comparison. A soft smile pulls at the corners of his mouth. A blood test will reveal the boy’s true identity.
With an abrupt shift in energy, he leaves his desk in a flurry, locking the door behind him.
Tonight, he’ll greet the new ones.
The group gathers in the cafeteria after dinner. It’s the first time Scully has seen everyone in one place, and the sight of so many human bodies is overwhelming.
Several children run laps around the perimeter in an impromptu game of tag. A long table at the back holds a few bottles of wine and beer, just enough to get everyone talking a little louder, laughing a little harder.
She stands apart from the crowd, keeping an eye out for Isaac. She eventually spots him with two slightly younger kids, and when she finally catches his eye, he does the most surprising thing and breaks out in a grin.
“Hey,” a low voice says, coming up beside her.
Mulder puts his hand lightly on her shoulder and she turns to face him, trying not to look too pleased, even though the sight of a familiar face is a relief.
“Yes,” she breathes. “Yes, I’m fine. I—it’s a lot to take in,” she murmurs, casting a look at the crowd. A blonde-headed young boy yells something as he races past, barely missing Scully’s knees.
“Lively crowd,” Mulder says, leaning casually against the frame of the cafeteria entrance.
“It is,” she agrees. “Where have you been?” Her voice is low, too soft to be heard over the din by anyone else but Mulder.
“I took a tour,” he says drily. “The BMOC—that’s Big Man on Compound—found me snooping around in the basement.”
She keeps her expression neutral, but her voice wavers slightly. “Did you find something?”
“No,” he says, chewing on his lip. “No, I didn’t.”
“That’s good?” It comes out as a question rather than a statement.
He meets her eyes and shrugs. “How’s the kid?” he asks, changing the subject.
Scully nods toward the opposite corner of the room, where Isaac is still in conversation with another boy. “He seems to be holding his own.”
“He can’t hear things,” Mulder murmurs.
Scully nods, her expression pained for a moment, then she recovers. “And he’s like a whole new person.”
They’re interrupted by the sound of voices at the far end of the room. Mosely has appeared out of nowhere, and now he stands, addressing the group in a calm voice. The man’s easy, fluid manners carries throughout his audience as everyone goes silent.
“Welcome all. Tonight is a very special assembly. I hope you’re enjoying the spirits,” he says, gesturing to the back of the room. “A rare treat, but we’ve earned them. Tonight marks our third month of survival.”
A vibrant cheer goes up, temporarily deafening in the crowded room. Mulder remains impassive, but Scully can’t help but be intrigued.
The man is charismatic, she thinks. Charming, even. The kind of person who smiles as he’s passing you the last cup of poisoned Kool-Aid.
The thought is chilling and perhaps not unfounded, as the audience listens in rapt attention.
Despite Mulder’s reluctance and her own intuitive misgivings, she’s beginning to think this could be the right place. They can work here, they can live here. The people are resourceful and intelligent, if today’s work tells her anything. What they’ve accomplished in such a short time is impressive.
For the first time in months, she feels hopeful for a future beyond a life of fear.
Scully’s attention is brought back to the assembly and she feels her face color as she realizes everyone is looking at them.
“And it’s a particularly special night; as many of you probably know, we’re among new friends. I’d like to formally welcome them tonight. Treat them as you would each of your fellows. They are survivors…survivors like us.”
Another cheer, and Scully feels Mulder reach for her, squeeze her wrist lightly. She smiles in reflex, a tight, uncomfortable grimace, waiting what feels like a painfully long time for the applause to die down.
Mosely continues with a range of announcements, with updates on their rations and two upcoming supply runs.
“This is the part where I disappear,” Mulder murmurs at her ear. “Keep your eyes open, Doc.”
Scully snorts and nods slightly, then searches the crowd for Isaac again. His friends appear to have wandered off, and he’s hanging out against the wall, alone, watching the proceedings. She walks the perimeter, the drone of speech in the background as she sidles up to him.
He shrugs in answer, not taking his eyes off Mosely. He’s distant, a curious, focused expression on his face.
It’s not late, but by the time the meeting ends, Scully feels her eyes itching for sleep. They arrived at the compound yesterday, but it feels like she’s been awake for days. Before she can turn to leave the cafeteria, the group descends on her and Isaac, shaking hands and exchanging introductions. At some point, Isaac presses his hand firmly into hers, anchoring them both against the oncoming tide of strangers.
They walk back to their rooms together.
“It’s weird,” he murmurs. “I keep wondering…” he hesitates, brow knit in thought.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know what they’re thinking,” he says, with a careful shrug. “I was different for so long, I guess I thought…I thought it would never be like this. And now it is. It was always part of me, but…I don’t miss it. I thought I’d miss it.”
She swallows hard, risks slipping her arm around his shoulder as they walk, surprised when he leans into her instead of away.