Chapter 5: Two-bit Hack Show

     AN: Small departure from canon here. The Lone Gunmen can’t die, they just can’t! Hey, if Season 10 can do it, so can I.

     PAINTBRUSH MOTEL
     RIVERTON, WYOMING
10:45 P.M.

     He’s hunched over the cheap hotel desk, back protesting the ergonomics, or lack thereof, with his laptop glowing in the darkness.

     A family history reveals nothing out of the ordinary—as far as Mulder can tell the child has little family, save for his parents. The first thing he finds is a record of live birth—Isaac Van de Kamp, born March 31, 2002, to Mr. and Mrs. John Van de Kamp—further confirming Mulder’s belief that Scully’s mystery visitor has led her astray.

     Beyond that, there’s no indication the boy is remarkable in any way, save for the mysterious attack a few hours earlier.

     Mulder sits back, checks the clock, sighs. He’s been at this since Scully dropped him off, that was hours ago. The motel is dark and quiet, the glow of the screen makes his head ache. He knows his partner is perfectly capable of taking care of herself, but still, he worries.

     We’ve been away from this too long.

     The cell phone rings, a harsh trill in the deep silence, and he jumps for it. “Scully?”

     “What the hell do you two think you’re doing?”

     Not Scully. It takes Mulder a moment to place it, but he doesn’t skip a beat. “Nice to hear your voice again, too, sir.”

     Deputy Director Walter Skinner doesn’t return the greeting. Mulder imagines the token vein popping out from his former superior’s forehead as he speaks. “My secretary got a call from the Fremont County P.D. this afternoon, claiming you two knuckleheads are snooping around elementary schools, chasing after kids. I don’t give a damn what you do in your retirement, Mulder, but I don’t appreciate you using my name as a Get Out of Jail Free card.”

     Mulder ignores this, accustomed to being the subject of Skinner’s ire. Usually it means he’s on the right track. “Actually, sir, I have a few questions for you about the Van de Kamps—that name ring any bells?”

     Skinner is caught off guard. “No, I…even if it did, Mulder, I can’t give you information. You know that.”

     “See, that’s just it, sir. There’s nothing on this kid, Isaac Van de Kamp, that explains why anyone would have it out for him. And yet, this morning Scully and I watched a man in black drag the kid into the woods…right before the guy melted into the ground.” His tone goes dark. “Sound like the work of anyone we know, Walter?”

     There’s a pause; he can hear heavy breathing on the other end of the line. Mulder knows he’s overstepped his bounds; copping an attitude with the one person who can help is a bad idea, but the headache makes him irritable, quick-tempered, and he can’t help thinking Skinner knows more about the Van de Kamp boy than he’s letting on.

     “Mulder,” Skinner’s words are slow and clipped, “the next time the police call me and mention your name, I’m going to tell them to arrest you. I’m warning you: Step off. Go home. That goes for Scully, too.”

     There’s a soft click as the line goes dead.

     Mulder tosses the phone on the bed in frustration. Damnit. What next?

     He paces the floor before picking up his cell again. The voice on the other end answers on the first ring, surprising given the late hour; deep, wary, and vaguely electronic. “Lay residence, Glen speaking.”

     “Drop the act, it’s me. I need help.” There’s a pause. A click, the sound of static, then silence.

     “OK, we’re clear. Mulder, long time no talk,” the deep masculine robot voice changes to Langly’s unmistakable nasal drone.

     “Kinda hard to talk to someone who’s supposed to be dead, my friend.”

     “There’s that,” Langly agrees cheerfully.

     “I don’t have much time for small talk. Are the guys there?”

     “In the flesh, G-man.”

     “I don’t wanna know about ‘the flesh,’ Langly, but I do need some information. I need you to hack into the FBI personal records database, I’m looking for a boy, Isaac Van de Kamp. Anything you can find—”

     “Got it. Gimme a minute.” The sound of fingers flying across a keyboard, followed by muffled arguing. “Put it on speaker! No, you moron, it’s that one.” Mulder picks out Frohicke’s deep rumbling monotone in the background. “Is Dana there?”

     He smiles. Some things never change, even in death.

     “Whaddya got, guys.”

     “Mulder,” it’s Byers this time. “You sure this is a kid you’re looking for? His dossier is huge, several gigs.”

     Mulder lifts his eyes, “Yeah, definitely a kid. Eleven or twelve years old.”

     “That’s him alright. It looks like…has he been sick? Lots of tests. Blood work. His medical record alone is massive.”

     “I dunno, possibly.” He pauses, unsure how to continue, “Scully thinks this boy might be her son.”

     There’s silence on the end of the line, save for muted typing. “According to this, she may be right. His file references another case number…an X-File. X-0576324B. That points back to one ‘William Scully,’ deceased.”

     For a rare moment, Mulder is rendered speechless. He has to sit down on the bed to keep his legs from giving way. The steady throbbing in his head increases.

     She was right. I didn’t see it.

     “Mulder, you there?”

     “Yeah, here, sorry. Are you sure?”

     “‘Course we’re sure,” Frohicke growls from over Byers’ shoulder. “This ain’t no two-bit hack show.”

     “Alright, calm down little man,” Mulder mutters, closing his eyes. “Looks like I owe someone flowers if I don’t want to spend the next decade sleeping in the doghouse,” he sighs. “Send me the dossier?”

     “I can try,” Byers says. “Like I said, it’s huge. There’s no guarantee they won’t find this back door and shut it down before we can download it all—“

     “—but maybe we can reroute through our offshore servers, buy it some time,” Frohicke interrupts amidst the frenetic tick-tack-tick of keys.

     “Get what you can,” Mulder cuts him off, too tired to follow the techno-speak. “If nothing else, get the medical records.”

     “Will do…and Mulder? She’d prefer chocolate.” Click.

     He hangs his head, pinching the bridge of his nose.

     Their son. His son.

     Was he blinded to the truth because it wasn’t obvious, or because he hadn’t wanted to see it?

     He dials Scully’s cell, relieved when she picks up.

     “Hey,” he says, biting his lip. “How’re you holding up?”

     “Oh, fine. Just—” she yawns, “—keeping an eye on things.”

     He does the math; she hasn’t slept in over 36 hours, save for a catnap on the plane. I should never have let her go.

     “They’re out pretty far; maybe thirty, forty miles. Nothing to see for miles. It’s quiet.”

     “Scully, you should come back. I don’t think you’re going to find anything tonight.” He continues, “I think this little incident caught them off guard. Whatever these people want, they won’t stay away for long, but I don’t think he’s as helpless as we want to believe.”

     A pause as she considers this.

     “Anyway, the guys found something. I think you’ll want to hear it for yourself.”

     Silence on the other end. Mulder is about to ask if she’s still there, but Scully’s voice comes through, tired and familiar. “I’ll be there soon.”

     “Drive safe.”

#

     She’s barely crossed the threshold before she’s standing in front of him, eyes on fire. “What did you find?”

     “Why don’t you get ready for bed first; we’ll talk.”

     “Mulder,” her tone a warning, “don’t coddle me. Tell me what you found.”

     He nods, wishing he could protect her, realizing she won’t let him. “Will you at least sit down?”

     She does. He sits, too, leaning forward on his knees, keeping his expression neutral.

     “The boy…you were right. He’s your son.”

     The fatigue from a few moments ago is replaced with restless, wide-eyed excitement. “I knew it! I knew it, Mulder, he had to be—”

     Mulder ignores the interruption, eyes downcast, wishing he didn’t have to share what comes next. “He has an extensive government file, the size of which rivals anyone on the Most Wanted list. They’ve been keeping detailed medical records on him since he was adopted. Testing him, looks like, although we won’t know for sure until Byers sends the full dossier.”

     Her face falls as it dawns on her what this means, a silent, unspoken fear etched in the line of her brow. “The adoption was supposed to protect him! No one was supposed to know…”

     Mulder raises his eyes to meet hers, watery and lined. “Someone didn’t keep their promise.”

     She doesn’t respond, but her sorrow is evident in the slump of her shoulders.

     He leans back, closing his eyes in tired defeat. “Byers is sending the files as soon as he can, we won’t have it ‘til morning. We should get some rest.”

     She can feel his gaze on her, radiating concern, but she can’t look at him. He stands, approaching her, his hand warm and familiar on her shoulder. “Hey.”

     She looks up, eyes filled with disappointment. “He was supposed to be safe.”

     “You did everything you could,” he murmurs, arms moving around her to stroke her hair, attempting to pull her into an embrace, but she refuses the comfort, wooden and unyielding in his arms.

     Confused, he pulls away, swallowing hurt at her rejection.

     It’s been a long day…she’s tired, Fox, give her some space.

     He reaches past her, turns down the covers. “C’mon. Sleep. We’ll figure it out in the morning.”

#

     She wakes to the sound of a deadbolt, Mulder’s key in the door; he enters, balancing a cardboard tray with two styrofoam cups and a greasy paper bag of something that smells divine, and greets her with an exaggerated back-country drawl.

     “Mornin’, sleepyhead.”

     She blinks, wipes the sleep from her eyes. “Where’d you go?”

     “Just a run, had to clear my head. Found a bakery down the street, brought your favorite.”

      She takes in the sight of him as he strips off his T-shirt; hair mussed, face bright, a fine sheen of sweat across his muscular shoulders. As conflicted as she feels about him, about them, she can’t deny the lingering attraction.

     He disappears into the bathroom; there’s the sound of running water as he starts the shower. She peeks in the bag to find doughnuts, three of them, still warm. Her mouth waters; she’s ravenous, having skipped dinner the night before, and she’s halfway through her second when Mulder steps out of the shower, a towel loosely wrapped around his waist.

     “Leave any for me?”

     “Mmmhmm…ere’s one,” she says, speaking through a mouthful of crumbs. He hands her one of the cups from the cardboard tray; she savors it, basking in the aroma, anticipating the caffeine buzz.

     He watches this with quiet amusement, head cocked to one side, taking a seat at the edge of the bed. “You slept well,” he says finally, sipping his coffee. “I was worried I’d wake you.”

     “I think you were right, I needed rest. I feel better.” As she says this, she decides “better” is not entirely accurate. Fear gnaws at her when she thinks about yesterday’s encounter with Isaac, the attack, and his haunted past. But she feels stronger, more capable…ready to get to work.

     “Good,” Mulder says, as if reading her mind, “because I’m going to need your medical expertise on this.”

     He fetches his laptop from the desk, and she looks up in surprise. “Byers sent the file? Have you read it yet?”

     “I figured we should do this together.”

     The Gunmen pulled a significant portion of Isaac’s record before their connection was cut, but what Mulder and Scully see is enough to tell them what they’d already suspected: Isaac is not an ordinary child, not by far.

     But you already knew that, Dana, whispers a nagging voice at the back of her mind.

     They review his history with growing horror—hundreds of tests and scans conducted over the span of the last eleven years, under the guise of routine treatment for a…“rare congenital heart defect,” Scully whispers, shaking her head. “There was nothing wrong with William’s heart.”

     “‘Isaac’ was a veritable lab rat,” Mulder grimaces.

     “Look, here,” Scully points, “these codes…they’re vaccination codes. Hundreds of them. But no one receives this many vaccines, not over the course of their entire life.”

     “How much do you want to bet those weren’t vaccines?”

     “It doesn’t make sense. If they wanted him for these procedures, why didn’t they take him? Like your sister? Or Spender? Or any of us…”

     “I don’t know. The record is incomplete, but it looks like they stopped testing him back in…” he searches through the records again, “…in January. Right before his twelfth birthday. Why spend all that time poking and prodding the kid, just to stop?”

     “Maybe the heart defect corrected itself?” Scully posits, but there’s little hope in her voice.

     “You’re a doctor, Scully. How many birth defects with such severity as to warrant constant monitoring have miraculously cured themselves in your career?”

     She slumps back in the bed, conceding the point. “None.” She wishes she hadn’t eaten; her stomach churns, sloshing sugar and coffee.

     “That’s what I thought,” he mutters, checking the clock. “But we have a date to keep. Maybe this kid can tell us why the government is so interested in his health.”

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