Chapter 11: Light Reading

     Scully sits cross-legged on the bed, pouring over Isaac’s file. She works methodically through the years of his life, sheet by sheet, studying each record, searching for clues.

     Age three, diagnosed with asymptomatic cardiomyopathy. This is the first time they conduct blood tests, DNA sequencing.

     Age four, overnight hospital stay; a series of injections meant to strengthen the heart muscles. More tests.

     Age four, two week hospital stay, surgery.

     Age five, the child is deemed strong enough to attend public school, but not without a barrage of preventive measures in the form of vaccinations. He spent more time in the hospital than he did in his kindergarden classroom.

     And on, and on. 

     Scully winces, wondering how all this was justified to the boy’s mother, wondering if Scully herself would have fallen victim to the same lies given her medical training.

     That’s not fair; she’s done the best she can, and you were the one who gave up the right to protect him, Dana.

     An hour passes, then two. She’s drawn into the boy’s history, reading between the lines to imagine his childhood. She sees a young boy in a hospital bed, perhaps clutching a favorite toy, scared, but stubborn and resolute. She sees him at school, forced to sit on the sidelines while the other kids run and kick up dirt, playing t-ball or basketball. She sees him sitting on the floor in front of the TV, eating cereal and watching Saturday morning cartoons, his arms covered in Band-Aids from the injections.

     She sits back, rubbing her brow in an effort to stave off a budding headache. She hadn’t realized this would be so difficult…or painful. 

     Of course it’s difficult; it’s personal.

     She couldn’t deny that she felt responsible for everything she read. Each test, each injection, each hospital overnight is another chink in her carefully constructed armor. Such armor was years in the making, but not strong enough to withstand a single shameful thought: She’d effectively sentenced him to this life when she signed the adoption papers.

     “A little light reading, huh?”

     She looks over her shoulder to find Mulder standing in the doorway. “Something like that. Did you talk to him?”

     “Yeah. My hunch was right; kid killed his father by accident. His mom still doesn’t know.”

     Scully grimaces, as if this causes her physical pain.

     Mulder continues, “Y’know…we should come clean. Tell them why we’re here.”

     Scully looks up, surprised at the suggestion. “They know why we’re here,” she hedges.

     “Does Isaac, though? The kid can read minds, Scully, but he’s smart enough without that.” Mulder smiles faintly. “He nearly had me down there. He knows about ‘William’. Thankfully I was able to cut him off before he made the connection. That’s not going to last, though.”

     Scully shakes her head vehemently. “No. Not yet. I can’t…” but she doesn’t finish the thought, withdrawing into tense silence.

     Mulder pauses, lips set in a thin line. “OK. Fine. I think it’s a bad idea, but I’ll take your lead. But know this: The kid’s perceptive. He’s…he’s fragile, Scully. As powerful as he is, he’s still just a kid, and he’s been through enough. Don’t destroy any shred of trust he might have by letting him find out on his own. If nothing else, we need to tell his mother, so she can make the decision for him.”

     She swallows, knowing Mulder is right, unable to admit it. “I get the feeling he doesn’t know he’s adopted.”

     “Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me.” There’s an uncomfortable pause. “How about you—find anything interesting?”

     Scully breathes a quiet sigh of relief, grateful for the change of subject. “Lots, but nothing I can pinpoint to a source. I mean, look at this,” she says, picking up a sheet. “It’s a map of the boy’s genome. Whatever government agency is responsible for these tests ran regular DNA analysis on Isaac, from age three.”

     “Why?”

     “Well…it’s abnormal. There’s no doubt this is compromised DNA,” her voice is low. “Just like with Gibson, there are many active ‘junk’ genes, genes that in an otherwise normal human being would be switched off. The primary difference is, there’s a lot more active DNA here…”

     “…which might explain why Isaac’s abilities surpass Gibson’s.”

     “In some sense, yes. If I’m reading this right, more and more has been switched on over the last several years. But look here, Mulder. This section.”

     He leans over her shoulder, she’s pointing at an indecipherable blot on the paper. “What am I looking at?”

     “It’s a mutation. Any mutation of this gene in a normal human fetus typically indicates severe growth retardation in utero—best case scenario, severe birth defects; worst case, spontaneous abortion—miscarriage.”

     “Kid’s looking pretty good for a dead person, Scully.”

     “Exactly.”

     “What does this mean for our little Einstein?”

     “Well…nothing. I’m no closer to figuring this out,” she sighs. “The ‘why’ is obvious—what government in the world wouldn’t want Isaac’s power? But the ‘who’…”

     “Maybe the ‘who’ doesn’t matter as much as we think.”

     “What do you mean?”

     Mulder considers for a moment. “What do we know about these attacks so far?”

     Scully shakes her head. “Whatever it is isn’t human…”

     “They always happen when we’re watching. Have you noticed that? It’s like they’re waiting for us. And the other thing…they’re weak. I mean, look at what this kid can do, how much pain he can inflict. Anyone who knows what he’s capable of should know they’d need someone…something…equally superhuman to stop him. Sending a single, faceless drone to do the job of an army? It doesn’t make sense.”

     “So…these attacks…you’re saying they’re decoys after all.”

     He mulls this over, a sunflower seed between his teeth. “They’re drawing us out, Scully.”

     “Us?”

     “You…and me.”

     “But why go to all the trouble?”

     “That’s the real question we should be asking, isn’t it? It’s too convenient. You’re left a mysterious note, they dangle your son in front of you like a long lost carrot, and…we’re off.”

     Her eyes tighten in skepticism, hating the defensive edge to her voice. “That’s paranoid even for you, Mulder. You don’t think the FBI…?”

     “If the Bureau is responsible, they’re taking the long way around,” he agrees. “No, I’d guess it’s military. DOD, maybe.”

     She sighs in frustration. “That leaves us back at square one.”

     “Looks that way.”

     She looks down at the files, studying them, when she feels his hand come to rest on her shoulder. It’s a reflexive gesture born out of habit, something he’s done countless times before, but today the unexpected contact makes her look up in surprise. At the same time, he jerks his hand away, as though he’s touched a hot pan.

     He straightens, moving to leave, avoiding her eyes. “We should take shifts. I don’t think they’ll come tonight, but soon. I’ll take the first.”

     “Mulder…”

     He looks up at the pleading note in her voice, and Scully takes in the sight of him—rumpled T-shirt, three-day stubble, tired eyes.

     Not tired, Dana…wounded.

     “Mulder, we should talk.”

     He blinks. “Yeah…yeah, I guess we should. Not now, though…later. Little pitchers have big, telepathic ears.”

     She snorts. “Fair enough. Goodnight, Mulder.”

     “Night, Scully.”

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