Trigger warning: Major character death.
JULY 18, 2015
When Peter’s back is turned, Scully sneaks a handful of the latest seeds into a folded paper envelope and tucks it into her bra. The copper solution, a handful of soil samples, and the DNA test solution go into her pack, alongside a notebook with meticulously copied notes of their research. She rationalizes that it’s not stealing; she’s left Peter everything he needs to continue the work on his own.
Regardless, she spends the rest of the day feeling unsteady, distracted, and guilty for what they’re about to do. Mulder’s voice is an unexpected surprise at the greenhouse threshold, and it does nothing to ease her mind.
“What’s up, Doc?”
She purses her lips. “You should know better than anyone, Mr. Hale. I’ll be right back,” she says, turning to Peter, who is frowning at something in his binder. He waves her off without looking up.
Mulder smiles, hand at her elbow, leading her outside to the back wall of the greenhouse. “Get everything?” he asks, watching the door.
She smiles brightly, a false face as a resident passes by from a distance, and waves. “Everything,” she murmurs. “Did you pack?”
“As much as I could without drawing attention,” he says. “Did you tell Isaac?”
“Yes,” she whispers, sucking in a breath, waiting a pause as someone’s shadow passes by on the other side of the greenhouse glass. “What’s the plan here, Mulder?”
He ducks his head. “Tonight, after lights down. There’s a breach in the fence at the far end, we can walk around. There are only two patrols and they don’t make it out that far; Jay said as much when they brought us in.”
“How far is it?”
“A mile or two. Then four back to the truck. We should be able to cover it with time to put some space between us, find a place to hole up for a bit. I don’t think they’ll come after us, but I’d rather be safe.”
“And what if they do?” she murmurs, eyes downcast.
“Come after us.”
He draws in a breath, opens his mouth to speak, but is interrupted.
“Mr. Hale? Dr. Scully?”
They turn to find Charlie, her eyes wide and worried, hands fidgeting at her sides.
“What’s wrong?” Scully asks, a sinking feeling in her stomach at the girl’s solemn expression, wondering what she might have overheard.
“It’s Isaac. He’s gone.”
Scully looks to Mulder and back to Charlie, folding her arms across her chest.
“He wasn’t in school,” Charlie explains. “I was going to talk to him about…I was going to talk to him. But he never showed.”
“I talked to him this morning,” Scully says, glancing at Mulder, unable to conceal the rising alarm in her words. “Are you saying no one has seen Isaac since then? That he’s been gone for…seven hours?”
Charlie blanches, nods.
Scully’s fingers fumble at her apron, ready to abandon her post.
“Hey…hey,” Mulder murmurs, stilling her with a touch on the wrist. “He’s probably holed up somewhere. I’ll go.”
“Then I’m going with you,” she insists.
Mulder shakes his head. “Someone has to stay put in case he shows up. Charlie and I will ask around.”
Her lips tighten, but she nods.
“It’s OK. He can’t have gotten far,” Mulder says, keeping his tone light, trying to think. Charlie’s hands won’t stop moving, tugging at one ear, hand over her mouth, then back down to her sides where they toy with the edge of a piece of orange plastic in her pocket. “Why don’t we take a walk? Let Dr. Scully get back to work,” he says, meeting Scully’s eye, giving a slight nod.
Scully’s chin tilts up in a silent challenge, but she turns and goes back inside.
“When did you last see him?” Mulder asks, when Scully and the rest of the greenhouse staff are out of range. They’re heading for the compound, the back side, opposite the garage where Mulder is supposed to be working.
“Last night…when we were done at the hospital,” Charlie says.
Mulder give her a sideways glance. “Does this have anything to do with your ‘research’?”
The girl shakes her head, but the look on her face tells a different story.
“Charlie, I can’t help if you don’t tell me the truth,” he says. They stop at the back of the compound where it’s all but deserted. The girl wraps her arms around herself.
“I don’t…I can’t tell you,” she says weakly.
“Then why did you come to us?”
“Because…because…we weren’t supposed to find out,” she sighs. “I told him we couldn’t say anything. I don’t know what would happen…”
“Charlie,” he says, patience waning.
There’s a hiss under her breath that sounds almost like profanity. When she speaks, her lips barely move around the words. “We looked at the hard drive.”
Mulder draws back. “You got in?”
She nods. “It was a bunch of data from some project? Isaac told me…he said it had to do with him. And you,” she narrows her eyes. “And we found something else there, too.”
“What was it?”
“Mosely,” she whispers. “His name was in one of the files.”
Mulder can almost hear the sound of the pieces clicking into place. “I have an idea…but just in case I’m wrong,” he says, kneeling down, ignoring the pain in his leg, bringing them face to face. “Charlie, I need you to do something for me. I need you to canvas the outside, as far as you can along the perimeter.”
The girl nods.
“If anyone stops you, tell them—”
“I’m working on a school project,” she finishes, and Mulder raises an eyebrow. “It always works,” she says with a shrug.
“Fine,” he says. “I’m going to look inside. If you find anything, go to Dr. Scully. Understand?”
She nods, and darts off around the corner.
“Shit,” he mutters, making his way back to the main entrance as fast as his knee will allow.
Isaac isn’t in his room; not that Mulder expected him to be. It’s too neat, but not sparse; he was careful about what he packed. Anyone else would think he was just an incredibly tidy teenager.
His next stop is the school and its one classroom, but he doesn’t go in, doesn’t linger at the door. A glance through the window is all he needs to know Isaac isn’t there.
The thought pulls him down the hallway, toward the elevator. The sense of danger seems to seep from the building’s concrete pores as he descends to the third level, darkness enveloping him like a shroud.
“Isaac?” he hisses, making his way from room to room.
He’s outside the waste management room now, finds himself opening the door, moving inside. The door at the back is unlit, quiet.
He slips the false keycard through the slot and presses the keypad until it lights up green. The handle opens too easily, not a squeak or a protest from the old door as it swings open, nor so much as a click when it shuts.
It’s too dark to see, but he knows what waits at the other end of this room, the black window beckoning from the other side.
“No surprises this time.”
His blood freezes at the voice, and Mulder thinks this is what it must have been like when his heart stopped, when his body fell from the sky and knocked the life out of him.
He dives to the left, slamming into something hard. There’s the faint sound of the door handle turning as Mulder scrambles behind the first thing he can find; an overturned desk with one broken leg.
The door opens, the orange glow becoming a narrow swatch of light across the floor.
The young girl’s voice is high, lingering in the plexiglass walls of the greenhouse like a bell.
Scully turns. “Charlie? Did you find him?”
The girl shakes her head. “I looked everywhere. I checked all our usual hangouts. He’s not outside.”
Scully presses her lips together hard.
“Is everything OK?” Peter asks, walking up behind Scully.
“Yes,” she says immediately, pasting on a smile. “Everything’s fine. I just need to take a minute.”
“Sure, sure,” Peter says, looking suspicious. Scully hurries Charlie outside to.
Charlie continues, “Mr. Hale…have you seen him yet?”
“No, he hasn’t come back.”
“He was going to look inside.”
“Then that’s where we’ll start.”
Scully knocks on Isaac’s bedroom door, but there’s no answer. She doesn’t expect one. The seed of doubt has already taken root in her stomach, winding its way up her throat.
He’d been so upset, so distant. She shouldn’t have let him out of her sight until she was sure—
“Isaac, I’m coming in,” she warns, pushing aside her thoughts, hand damp on the handle.
The room is as she left it this morning, with no sign of her son.
“Dr. Scully?” Charlie interrupts.
“Yes?” she says, but she’s barely listening, recalling Mulder’s insistence that they leave, Isaac’s strange behavior this morning….
“Dr. Scully, I—”
Scully turns, taking Charlie in for the first time, her pixie hair and wide brown eyes that hold something deeper, beyond her young age. She can see why Isaac likes her; there’s the same loneliness, the same defiance.
“Dana. It’s just Dana,” she says finally.
“Dana. There’s something you should know,” she says. “I told Mr. Hale this morning, he said he had an idea—”
It comes to her suddenly, the reason why Mulder was nowhere to be found, the first place he’d go.
“Oh god…” Scully whispers. “I think…I think I might know where he is.”
Scully swallows hard. “Wait here.”
She jogs over to her room. The gun is in her desk drawer, and she tucks the weapon into her belt, hoping she won’t need to use it.
“Come on,” she says, leading Charlie out to the main corridor to the elevator, but the lights are off, and there’s no response when she pushes the button.
“Weird…” Charlie says, bypassing Scully, heading for the stairwell.
No…not locked, Scully realizes, a sinking feeling in her stomach as she peeks inside the narrow window. Barred.
“What the hell?” Charlie hisses, pressing on the lever, pushing her weight against it.
“Someone got here before us,” Scully murmurs.
“Why would Isaac lock us out?”
“I don’t think he did,” Scully says carefully. “Is there another way to the underground?”
Charlie shakes her head. “If there were, I’d know. I’ve been all over this place.”
“Alright—we’ll do this the hard way, then,” Scully grimaces, searching for something to use as a lever, finding a fire axe at the end of the hall.
“What are you doing?” Charlie asks.
“Stand back,” Scully says by way of explanation, inserting the metal blade of the axe between the doors and twisting at the handle. The axe pries them open with a groan until they’re wide enough for Scully to squeeze through. The shaft lies before them; a fifty-foot drop, but she can see the top of the elevator car.
“We can get in through there,” Scully says, pointing down. “How good are you at climbing?”
Charlie looks at Scully, sizing her up. “How good are you at climbing?”
This gets a small smile. “You go first; I’ll keep an eye out. There are rungs,” she gestures under her feet, to the metal bars spaced three feet apart. “You have a clear path down to the elevator car, and there should be an escape door on top.”
“How do you know all this stuff?” Charlie asks, dropping to the floor and worming her way, backwards, into the shaft.
“Let’s just say this isn’t the first time ‘Mr. Hale’ has gone missing,” Scully mutters.
Charlie’s feet find the first rung, hands clutching at the tops of the doors. Scully kneels, ready to catch the girl’s arms. It will be a stretch, but Charlie is limber, with the confidence of youth.
Let’s hope you are, too, Dana.
A twinge in her ribs reminds her of her age, but she pushes the thought aside as she watches Charlie descend. The girl reaches the bottom with a resounding clunk that echoes through the chamber and makes Scully wince.
Please let the machinery drown us out.
She follows, her descent slower than Charlie’s. Scully manages to make it down the chamber no worse for the wear, but the landing in the elevator car is enough to knock the wind from her.
“You OK?” Charlie asks.
“Fine,” Scully gasps. “Keep your voice down.”
They pause to listen for a moment, but there’s only the buzz of the facility’s inner workings; air filtration, water and waste, electricity, all of it pumped through the building’s neural center. Charlie seems to know where they’re going.
“That’s storage,” she whispers as they creep along the walls, peering around the corner. “Just a lot of old stuff they don’t use. Most of the rooms down here are full of junk.”
Scully makes a noncommittal sound in the back of her throat, eyes roaming the dark hall.
If there wasn’t anything important on this floor, why was the stairwell barred, and the elevator shut off?
Mulder takes a chance and stretches, his knee screaming at the sudden change of position. His legs went numb awhile ago.
The room is dark, a weak, orange glow coming through the door’s narrow glass window, but his eyes have adjusted. He’s hidden amongst the detritus, fixated on the door at the opposite end, where Mosely and Jay are talking.
California, he thinks, grimacing at the knots in his shoulders. Oregon. Washington. He would find Isaac, and they’d head northwest, following the line of desert until they reached the ocean, then upward, into the cold, northern forests.
He presses himself against the wall, feeling the concrete against his back, cloaked in heavy shadow. He catches a glimpse of Mosely’s white hair through the glass window, hears Jay’s voice, then the light goes out and he’s once again bathed in darkness.
There is the sound of the door opening and the two men carrying something heavy. Mulder can’t see it without revealing his position, but he can smell it, pungent and foul, can hear the creature’s claws as they drag along the floor, a gritty sound against the concrete.
He waits until the door to the waste management area snicks shut behind them, then, keeping his back to the wall, sneaks toward the room at the opposite end. Breathing hard, Mulder shifts away from the wall, slowly, painfully standing until he can see above the edge of the window. At first it’s too dark to make out more than the outline of the chamber, but there’s someone inside.
He risks another two inches, his bad knee shaking, but the increased angle gives him a clearer picture, and his heart lurches.
Isaac lays flat in the chamber, unconscious and visibly unharmed, but that does nothing to make Mulder feel better. He remembers the way the alien reacted when the contraption was turned on, the way it writhed and screamed. It was a device designed to cause suffering, and Isaac was trapped within its smooth glass walls.
He wheels around, searching for a weapon; an axe, a crowbar, hell, even a hefty piece of two-by-four—something to use as leverage to distract them long enough to get Isaac back…
There’s a slim piece of metal laying in one corner; it’s a scrap, but the end is sharp. Clutching the stick in one hand, Mulder creeps back to the door. He swallows hard, gripping the handle. It opens too easily.
He’s eyeing the chamber, searching for an opening, when Mosely speaks from over his shoulder.
“Hello, Mr. Hale. Why don’t you put that down?”
He hadn’t heard them come back. He freezes, staring at his son through the walls of the chamber, strengthening his resolve.
“I’ll drop it when you let him go.”
“I wondered if you’d make an appearance,” Mosely says, smiling.
Mulder grits his teeth, tasting tin and adrenaline at the back of his throat. “I said, let him go.”
“I’m sorry, that’s really not possible.” His voice is cool as water. “I don’t think you’re in any position to make that kind of request.”
“Damnit, Mosely! He’s just a kid.”
“Oh, I think we both know that’s not true.”
Mulder swallows hard, trying to keep both Mosely and Jay in his line of sight. Isaac’s pale frame lays stretched in the chamber behind him, hands twitching at the wrists, fingers tapping a silent, frenetic rhythm against the glass.
“Get him out of there!”
“We’re controlling it, Mr. Hale. This chamber removes the strange effect this earth seems to have on them. It’s allowed us to study the creatures. Right now it’s holding him at bay, but you’ll see, in a moment, just how powerful he is.”
“He’s a human being, you son of a bitch,” Mulder says, advancing on the man, the metal cold in his hands. Mosely’s mouth twitches upward in a grin.
“I couldn’t believe it at first…I’d heard of him through various channels, of course, but we lost sight of him after Idaho. It was assumed he was dead; the attack was unplanned, we had no fair warning, we knew he didn’t possess full immunity due to his unique genetic structure. I never imagined…but he survived,” Mosely says, almost in a trance as he watches Isaac’s jerky movements. “He survived, Mr. Hale. You can’t possibly believe how remarkable it is to meet him, to have the chance to see for myself what he’s capable of, what we can learn from him.”
“You,” Mulder spits. “You knew,” he breathes.
“I suspected, but it wasn’t until we had the blood sample that I knew for sure. For so long we waited, knowing what was coming. We never could have prepared for this, but now…we have him,” he says, gesturing to Isaac’s prone form. “He’s the key to our lock, the answer to the puzzle of our continued survival, and to have him here…why, I don’t think you realize just how amazing that is.”
Mulder feels himself attack before he realizes it’s what he’s going to do, driven by blind rage. Mosely fends him off with a swift, easy motion, his arm moving faster than humanly possible as it connects with Mulder’s jaw. The impact sends him flying backwards, his body crumpling against the cinderblock wall.
The world moves in hazy lines, finally reforming into recognizable shapes. His chin aches, a furious throb that reverberates through his skull.
“Mose?” Jay grunts from the other side of the room. “You want me to take care of him?“
“Leave him. Let’s continue.”
Jay turns to the opposite side of the chamber. Mulder tries to get up, feels his knee buckle. “No!” he croaks, helpless, as a metallic hum begins to emanate from the chamber, Isaac’s movements within becoming more frantic. Then a high-pitched wail that Mulder realizes is coming from Isaac’s mouth as his head tosses back and forth.
“Stop! You’re killing him!”
Mosely doesn’t seem to notice, intent on the boy. “Everything in good time, Mr. Hale. Transformation is painful.”
Mulder lunges at Mosely again, wild with fear, but Mosely fends him off easily, this time with a shove that sends Mulder sprawling.
Isaac’s body arches in the chamber, his limbs rigid, almost as though he’s levitating, and Mulder’s hands clench in sympathy. The boy’s head turns, his eyes wide, meeting his father’s for an infinite moment of suffering.
“No,” Mulder wails, scrambling for purchase against the floor. There’s a gasp as Isaac’s body suddenly collapses again, going frightfully still behind the glass.
“Stop right there!”
Scully’s voice rings out in the small room. She’s trained the gun on Mosely, her gaze sharp.
“Watch out,” Mulder says, hoarse.
“You OK Mulder?” she says, not taking her eyes off the other men. There’s a soft sound, like a gasp, and Mulder glimpses Isaac’s friend peeking around Scully’s back.
“Let him go!”
Mosey sighs. “Please, don’t make this harder than it has to be.”
“He’s not human, Scully,” Mulder growls. “It won’t work.”
Scully’s finger presses the trigger, the blast ringing out as Mosely drops to the ground, clutching his shoulder. She turns to Jay, whose hands are raised in surrender.
“Get down, or you’re next,” Scully hisses, waving the barrel of the gun toward the floor. “Now!”
Jay exchanges a look with Mosely, who nods for him to comply.
“He’s not gonna stay down,” Mulder gasps as Scully kneels by his side, checking for injuries. “Get…Isaac.”
“Where is he?”
“He’s…” Mulder gestures to the chamber behind them, struggling to his feet. Charlie lets out a soft moan at the sight.
“Oh…my God…” Scully whispers.
Isaac thrashes again, his body going rigid, then collapsing in seizure. She rushes to the chamber’s door on the far side of the room, tugging on the capsule, fingers pressing buttons, but to no avail.
Jay tries to take advantage of her distress, rising up, but Mulder cries out, “Watch him, Scully!”
She turns and sets her sights on Jay just as he springs to attack. The bullet hits him square in the chest and he collapses, dark blood oozing from the wound. Unlike Mosely, his eyes turn glassy.
“Isaac!” Mulder pounds against the chamber, looks around for something to break the glass. A fire extinguisher lies against the far wall, and he grabs it, hitting it against the glass, but it doesn’t crack. “Scully, help me!”
“I’m trying, this isn’t working!”
“Look out!” Charlie cries, a moment too late. Mosely is up and grabs Scully from behind, grappling with her for the gun.
Charlie surprises them, launching herself at the man, pulling him back, but she’s not strong enough to overpower him.
“You need to know which side you’re on, Charlene. You belong to us, not them. You’re a survivor. Remember that.”
Mosely’s arm comes back and pulls, plucking the girl off him like a piece of lint, tossing her aside. Her shoulder hits the wall, and her body crumples to the ground.
Distracted by the girl, he doesn’t notice Scully with the gun, doesn’t see her draw and point directly at the back of his neck.
The blast rings out in the tiny room, momentarily deafening. There’s the smell of gunpowder and something else, an acrid, metallic scent, as the last of Mosely’s life leaves his body.
“His blood—“ Mulder begins, waiting for the burning sensation, but it doesn’t come.
Scully rushes to Charlie, feeling for a pulse. She’s already beginning to stir. “I think she’s going to be fine.”
“Scully, we gotta get him out!”
Isaac’s body makes an impossible arch, his hands scraping against the tube. With a shrill wail, the boy collapses with a final twitching gasp as his last breath leaves his body. His chest is still.
Mulder continues his assault with the extinguisher, and the minutes pass. Scully works at the chamber’s hatch with the metal scrap, using it like a crowbar.
“Mulder, it won’t…” Scully says, her breath catching in a sob.
The glass is slowly giving way under Mulder’s relentless pounding, but he’s out of breath; so much effort for no reward, nothing but a spider’s web of cracks.
Isaac knows this place, he knows it too well from his dreams, but this is no dream. This is the place at the end of the tunnel, the world collapsed and burning, the hallway lit in green, his whole existence boiled down to a singular moment of agony.
He remembers feeling his body being moved, dragged, hoisted and positioned, and then the pain began. Slow at first, a burning in his head, the humming thoughts rising and increasing to a frantic pitch. Soon he was helpless against it.
There’s no escape from the white pain, the feeling of another energy hovering around him, pulling him forward against his suffering will.
And then it stops; the pain is gone in an instant, and when he finally opens his eyes, there is nothing to see. He can’t feel his legs, his arms, his hands. He realizes this is what it feels like to be lost, to be left behind, to dissolve.
The sound of the word is foreign and awkward; he doesn’t have a name in this place.
No, he thinks, pitiful and weak. Not me, I am nothing. Please leave me alone.
He tries to open his mouth, but finds he doesn’t have one. The thing—the unknown, unseeable thing—can hear him without it.
Isaac, you’re safe now.
And he is, he realizes. Safe. A sudden weight lifts from his chest. No more running, no more dark corners, no more unknowns. Here, he can be everything. He can be eternal energy, life unencumbered by flesh. Untouchable.
Where am I? he thinks, testing the question in his mind, surprised at how light the words feel, how fast they travel without the clumsy need for lips and tongue.
You lack the language of our kind, but your primitive vocabulary might call this ‘home’.
A thought occurs to him, and he asks the question before he means to, unused to the instant relay of thoughts in his head.
What will happen to them?
The experiment failed.
Yes. The planet is not fit for harvest. It will be returned to stasis.
Harvest? Realization dawns. Stasis?
No, you don’t understand, he thinks, suddenly frantic. I need to go back.
The voice is flat, unconfused, unconcerned. You are correct, I do not understand. You are one of us, Isaac. You are safe here, the thing repeats.
Those are people back there, Isaac says. They’re not an experiment. They’re like us.
They are not like us, Isaac. They kill their own kind. They are weak.
But they’re good, too. I’m like them, he thinks, putting as much force behind the thought as possible. You can’t kill them.
But you are here. You do not wish to be here?
No, Isaac realizes, suddenly desperate for the chance to return to the darkness if it means he can live again. No, I don’t. Please, let me go back.
You wish to die?
No, he says, frustrated. No, I want to live.
There’s silence, unnatural as it is without the sound of his own heartbeat, the sound of his breath. He waits, urgency growing.
Please, he thinks, hoping the creature hasn’t left, hoping they’ll listen. Please, please.
There’s a sudden tug, as though being pulled out of the sky, gravity reclaiming stolen property, then the sense of falling, plummeting downward and back into his body, an ocean of pain washing over him on impact.
His fists clench at his sides, the first breath is most painful, coming up for air, his eyes wide. He senses his mother and father outside, sees the cracks in stunningly sharp contrast to their faces. His head pounds, but his mind is clear, purified by moments spent in perfect freedom.
Stasis, he thinks, an abstract word with new meaning, as every part of his human form hums in perfect harmony with his extraterrestrial self.
Within the demagnetization chamber, he is no longer bound by the laws of the rocks. His fists open, and he feels the familiar energy rushing into him. The chamber concentrates it, channels it, and soon he feels heat, light, and freedom.
“Scully…Scully we need to—“
They’re interrupted by a sudden crack, powerful as lightning, a static charge from within the chamber that’s now filled with smoke and light. Mulder’s first thought is of Isaac, for his safety, until he realizes the boy is responsible for the immense heat and energy now emanating from the tube.
“Mulder,” Scully breathes, her hand gripping his forearm painfully. “What’s happening?”
“I don’t…I don’t know,” he says, swallowing hard, glancing at Charlie, still curled on the ground. “But I don’t think that thing’s going to hold…”
“Hold what?” she says, looking back and forth between him and their son, sweat dotting her brow, breath hissing between her teeth.
There’s a second crack, this time from the tube as the glass begins to give at the weakest point, and Mulder yells, “Duck!” throwing himself on the ground, covering Charlie’s body with his own. He sees Scully go down out of the corner of his eye, her skin a hot white streak, her hair a red flame, just as the chamber explodes.
Smoke, fire, heat.
Isaac coughs, his lungs burning as he sits up, no longer encased in glass, awakening to the damage around him.
Mulder is folded over Charlie’s body, curled around her on the floor, his back covered in the shattered fiberglass. Scully is also on the floor, hunched in a ball to their left.
“Mul…Mulder,” Isaac croaks, swinging his legs over the side, surprised at his strength. The pain in his head is gone. He looks around for the source of the smoke; the desk in the back corner has gone up, the old, dry wood setting off like kindling.
A groan, a cough is the only faint response.
“Doc?” Isaac looks around. The fire extinguisher is on the floor next to him. He picks it up, aiming for the burning desk, but the valve has snapped off. He tosses it aside.
Another cough. “M’here. Scully?”
Isaac looks over his shoulder where the fire is creeping upward, undeterred by the concrete as old paint curls and drips off the wall. “We need to get out of here.”
“Yeah…yeah…comin’,” the man says, slowly rising from the floor, shards falling off his body in a glass rainfall as Isaac comes around to kneel beside Charlie. Her eyes flutter open.
“Charlie, wake up. Wake up,” Isaac insists.
“Isaac?” Her voice is drowsy and thick. “What happened?”
“You’re OK,” he says, offering a hand. She takes it and he pulls her to her feet, shaken, but unharmed.
Mulder swallows, looking around, “Scully? Scully, we have to go—”
He turns to his partner, still curled on the floor, watches as she shifts, groans softly. A flame lashes out, dangerously close. The temperature in the room is already stifling.
If it gets to the tanks, this place will go up like a firework, he thinks. The thought is enough to snap him out of his trance. He leans down, tugging on her shoulder, trying to lift her.
“Scully,” he coughs, “Scully, help me out here. We gotta go.”
She shifts on the floor, slowly turning over. Isaac is stumbling toward the door with Charlie, glass shards trailing in their wake.
“Go,” he urges them. “You need to warn the others. Scully!”
Her voice sounds strange, weak, and he whirls on her. “C’mon, Scully, we don’t have time—“
He stops short when he sees her, the red blossoming across the center of her t-shirt like a rose. “Oh…”
“The glass, it hit me—“
“I got ya,” he says, ignoring his shaking hands as he scoops her up. “Hang on, don’t…Jesus, Scully, you’re bleeding,” he says, realizing as he helps her sit that his hands are covered, there’s a growing pool on the floor. His throat is dry from the smoke. “Scully, come on—“
“Mulder…can’t…” she murmurs, her breathing labored.
“Goddammit,” he mutters, grabbing her under the shoulders, awkwardly pulling her up, and her scream sends a shooting pain through his chest. “For once, just…don’t…argue.” He looks around, frantic, as the fire encroaches.
“Mulder?” Isaac calls, his voice faint from the other room. “We’re—oh,” he wavers, seeing the blood splashed across the floor. The fire roars, something small makes a warning crack, the old fire extinguisher’s canister hisses.
“Out!” Mulder yells with what little voice he has left. “Get out!”
Isaac takes Scully’s other side, helping them both from the room with the chamber, shutting the door behind them. There’s another explosion as the fire extinguisher ignites, but Mulder and Isaac are already working to move Scully toward the next door.
“Mulder,” Scully says, drawing in a watery breath. Blood trickles from the corner of her mouth and she coughs, flecks of red sprayed across his shirt.
“Shit,” he mutters. “Shit, Scully, hold on—“
“No,” she shakes her head, her words slightly slurred. “Mulder…too deep…not gonna make it,” she gasps.
“Fuck that,” he growls.
“Won’t…make it,” she says, interrupted by a coughing fit that brings up even more blood. “Let me…let me go.”
He looks at her in abject horror. “No! You can make it, you just have to—”
Isaac looks over Mulder’s shoulder, and Scully looks him in the eye. “Tell him, Isaac…tell him…you need to go.”
Another explosion rings out from the closed off room; the entire thing is engulfed in flames, and the door is beginning give, the window glass cracking under the pressure.
Isaac swallows. “No, Doc…no—“
“Tell him,” she insists, but her eyes drift shut in a wince.
“Dammit, Scully!” Mulder grabs her roughly, his knee threatening to give as he pulls her sharply forward. “Help me!”
The boy hesitates, though, looking at Scully’s pale face, and Mulder wheels on him. “Isaac!”
They move slowly, wrapping his arm around Scully’s waist to stabilize her as Mulder uses what strength he has to move toward the door where Charlie is standing, watching with wide, watering eyes. The room is lined with cardboard boxes and old wood furniture, piles of kindling just waiting for a spark.
“We need to move,” Mulder says through gritted teeth, his hands slippery with Scully’s blood. Her hair hangs down over her face and she gags, a splatter of red landing on the floor in front of them.
“Mulder,” Scully whispers again, this time softer, less insistent, her lips pressed to the side of his face. He can feel her against him, the life draining from her in red rivulets. “Please…I can’t…breathe…”
He swears under his breath, gently setting Scully against the wall of the inner room, wiping sweat from his brow. “Hang on. We can do this, Scully, just…hang on.”
Mulder turns on Charlie, standing in the hall. “You need to warn the others, tell them it’s not a drill. Can you do that?”
Charlie’s jaw trembles but she nods, turns, and sprints down the hall.
The temperature in the waste room has risen uncomfortably. Mulder turns back to the sound of a door slamming shut.
She’s standing, her face in the glass on the other side, white as a ghost, lips flecked with blood.
“No,” Isaac moans thickly.
Mulder lunges toward the door, slamming his body into the handle, but it won’t open. He scrambles in his pocket for his false key card, fingers slick on the keypad, but Scully is shaking her head. His eyes meet hers as he realizes what she’s done. He can barely hear her through the glass, her voice strained from the effort of standing.
“Go. This…holds the fire…back…you’ll have…more time…”
“Scully, open the door,” he breathes hard, understanding what she means to do. “Don’t do this. Open the goddamned door!”
The flat of his hand slaps uselessly against the hulking metal frame, and he throws his body against the structure again and again. Pound after pound, the steel door remains impenetrable. Scully leans with her forehead pressed to the window, eyes closed. Her fingers leave bloody prints on the surrounding glass.
Someone grabs his arm—Isaac, pulling him away—and he turns on the boy, all rage and fear. “Help her! You can use your…you can—“
Isaac swallows hard, tears streaming down his sooty cheeks. His powers are rendered useless by the rocks now. Mulder turns back to the door to see Scully slipping down.
“Mulder,” she whispers, but he can’t hear her, can only read her lips through the glass.
“Scully, why? Why are you doing this? Unlock the door…please…unlock it, we can still get you out. You can’t leave us yet; we just found him. I can’t do this without you—“ but he can’t continue because he’s choking on smoke and tears. Scully’s next words are weak, silent, as if it takes every ounce of strength she has left just to move her lips.
Her face slips down beyond the narrow window, leaving just her fingers clinging to the glass, before those disappear as well. There’s the scream of breaking glass as the window to the chamber’s room finally shatters.
“No!” Mulder rages, renewing his assault on the door until Isaac screams.
“Stop! Stop it, she’s…we have to go,” he chokes out, and Mulder turns to find his son’s face dripping with tears. “She’s gone. We need to go, now, or we’ll all be dead.”
“We can’t…she can’t…” Mulder struggles, his voice hoarse and watery.
Isaac tugs on his arm, grabs for his hand, “Mulder,” he pleads. “We need to go.”
Somehow he finds himself following Isaac toward the elevators, throwing glances over his shoulder to where Scully would be, except she’s not there; the door where she should be is now backlit by fire.
Scully, he thinks, barely able to stay upright at the thought. His legs move without his consent, away from her, away from the flames and heat, into the cool stairwell, up two flights.
The ground floor is awash in panic; the alarms continue to sound, the compound’s residents congregate in the halls, confused. Mulder hears snippets of their conversations, words bouncing off him, but nothing sticks; he stumbles blindly onward behind Isaac.
“What’s going on? Where’s Mosely?”
“I don’t see a fire…”
“Oh, my God…”
Isaac scans the crowd in a panic, looking for Charlie, sees her standing at one of the exits.
Mulder shuffles along with the rest, still in shock, eyes trained on the back of Isaac’s head as he and Charlie push through the compound’s doors and into the cold night air.
“There are tanks full of shit down there; they’ll explode,” someone says; Mulder recognizes it as George.
A truck from the garage pulls up, and Isaac helps Charlie into the back. “Mulder!”
Mulder turns, frowns, thinks he can’t leave; he can’t, she’s still here, she’s in the basement, and he needs to get back to her. But there’s a crowd of people moving against him, and soon he’s drawn backwards.
“Mulder!” Isaac calls, now frantic. “C’mon!”
He stumbles toward the truck, climbs into the back, where Charlie is perched on the wheel well, and Isaac is looking at him with red-rimmed eyes. Mulder doesn’t know what to say, to do, so he simply grabs Isaac and pulls him into a hug as the truck peels out, leaving a trail of dust and exhaust behind it.
Others pour out of the compound, some on foot, some piled into vehicles, scattering in different directions. Another group follows the truck, driven by one of the gardeners. Mulder recognizes Peter at the wheel.
Isaac clings to him, face pressed to Mulder’s chest, and he doesn’t know what to do save for hold on.
They’re parked close enough to feel the blast when the compound’s dying breath lights up the horizon, dozens of its former citizens watching as night briefly becomes bright as day. Then they’re sunk back into darkness as the explosion recedes, a smoldering line of orange against the smoky blue haze of early morning.
There are arguments about what happens next, sounds of muffled sobbing, unrest skittering amongst the crowd. Mulder doesn’t hear it. A distant part of him knows he’s in shock, recognizes the symptoms like they were old friends.
Isaac hasn’t left his side since it happened, since they drove away from the compound and into the night. Charlie sleeps to their left, curled up on a tarp in the bed of the truck. Mulder thinks he saw one of the nurses talking to her earlier, thought he heard the word “concussion,” but that was a while ago. Minutes or hours, perhaps.
It’s cold; someone, maybe Isaac, threw a blanket over his shoulders. He can’t stop looking at the fire on the horizon, half expecting Scully’s silhouette to emerge from the flat expanse of oranges and reds.
She never does.
Eventually he closes his eyes.