Futures Past 08: Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This Arvy DISCLAIMER Arvy : Okay, now the first 20K of this story was written way back when FP3 was but a gleam in my eye. I added the next ~20K over the next year or so. Then one night, my muse, goddess that she is, deigned to cometh and sitteth at my shoulder, churning out the last ~60K, all in one night. Can you believe that? So, as I write this disclaimer, I'm probably 24% awake, 69% asleep, and 34% dreaming I'm a lit major flunking math, so don't try to sue us. You may not be catching us at our best. Arvy's Muse : That much is certain (Imitating Spock from ST:IV) (!!! Warning !!! Gratuitous ST:TOS crossover above !!!) Arvy : Hey, quit quoting Spock like that. It's rude to copy somebody else's lines. Especially when people are trying to enjoy this original work of mine. I mean, what'll they think.
Arvy's Muse : Umm.... Arv, sorry to tell you this, but you might be confusing me with my mom, Mnemosyne. I'm not my mother, I'm the forgotten tenth Muse, her daughter, Xerox-a-zine. It's who I am, it's what I do... (!!! Warning !!! Gratuitous Kung Fu: TLC crossover above !!!) Xaz : Jeez, enough already with the gratuitous warnings. I think the readers get it. And what's with the Xaz thing? Are you giving moi a nickname? I'm a muse, dammit, not a tasmanian devil! (You guessed it folks - !!! Warning !!! Gratuitous Looney Toons and TOS crossover above !!!) Arvy : What!!?? You mean... you mean, I've not had the great, the wonderful Mne... Xaz : Nope. Sorry pally (!!! <== DS9!!!). I mean, just check out this story. The scene from that movie with that cute Indy Jones actor. And that really bad airplane movie reference. Where did you think I pulled those from? My a... Arvy : Stop! stop!! I can't hear any more. You mean, none of my characters are mine? They aren't original? But... but... Xaz : There, there. I'm so sorry, but no, they aren't yours. And they never will be. They belong to CC, or 1013, or FOX, whoever owns the rights to them. Oh, and I almost forgot Paramount for the startrek parts. But that's okay. Just wait till your next story. You'll feel better. You'll see. Ahem... Meanwhile, I think the readers are waiting for you to... you know... wind it up already. Arvy : You pr... promise...? Xaz : I promise. Now before you start losing your audience... Arvy : Oh? Oh yeah, sorry 'bout that folks. Whoo, that disclaimer did get away from us, didn't it? Maybe I'll keep the Notes section short or something... Xaz : Ah...hh...emmm.... Arvy : Yeah, yeah, I'm getting to it. Well folks, I hope you enjoy this. Oh, and read the story too ;) End of Lame-o Disclaimer Author's Notes Okay, folks, it's official. Futures Past is now a year old. Hard to believe that almost exactly a year ago, I first posted FP1:The Awakening and FP2:The Light of Day to atxc. This one is the eighth in the series, and I still have several ideas left, so the end is nowhere in sight. I finally decided to do a little jumping around in the timeline. I've got so much to write about just in the present, if I wait till all those stories are told, I'm afraid I'll never get around to the Star Trek parts of the series. Besides, after Phoenix, I needed something a bit lighter before tackling the next one I have in mind. So, timeline wise, this is set just before and after the Voyager episode, The Killing Game, the one with the Hirogen on the holodeck. The flashback is set more than a decade after the X-files season 5. I'll probably come back to the present in the next story. Also, this is my first real Star Trek story, not counting the references in Phoenix, and I've not gone too much in depth into that universe. This is still primarily a M&S story, with the Star Trek parts serving more as a vehicle for the flashback, and to put the setting in place for future stories. Finally, this fic, like all my others, is dedicated to all you readers out there who thought enough of my stories to send me all this wonderful feedback. And, as always, future feedback would be greatly appreciated. So, if you want to send some my way, my address is email@example.com. Let me know what you thought of the story. Missing parts can be found either on my website at http://www.bigfoot.com/~unmai or at gossamer. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Futures Past 08: Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This by Arvy The silence of space was shattered by the sudden gasp. Of course, the actual sound could not be heard by anyone other than the source. The effect of the gasp, however, was slightly more noticeable, as evidenced by the little twitch of the white suit as it slowly tumbled over and over, weightless, in the vast emptiness. The occupant of the suit came awake with a jerk, and frantically glanced this way and that, trying to figure out where he was. All he could see was the inky blackness permeated by the millions of pinpricks of light. Slowly, memory accompanied consciousness as he remembered... ----------------------------------------------------------------- Dorsal Airlock, Deck 3, Aft USS Voyager, Delta Quadrant Sunday, September 1, 2374 0300 hours "So why do *I* get stuck with the 'monster'?" He pulled out the bulky suit, aptly named 'monster' by the crew, then slammed the locker shut as he turned to face his team. A team of one right now. "Sorry, Mark. You lost. Fair and square." Ensign Harry Kim pushed a shock of dark hair out of his eyes as he adjusted his visor. His voice sounded tinny through his suit's comm system, but still managed to convey his good humor effectively. "You know, Harry," the taller man replied, "sometimes, I think Neelix's leola root stew must go directly to your head. No one should be that cheerful this early in the morning." "Hey, is it my fault we are the three..." Harry frowned, turning his head to look down the corridor. Seeing the last member of their team hurriedly turning the far corner, he continued, "... three crewmembers most experienced with comm system design?" Smiling at the answering grunt, he turned just as the blue skinned figure came to a halt beside them. "A little late, aren't we, Leslie?" "Sorry, guys. I was in the middle of this really nice dream when Torres called." She quickly pulled out her suit from the locker and started putting it on. "You know, I was having the same dream myself..." Mark began, a leer hiding behind his grin, even as he fiddled with the numerous fastenings on his suit. The suit certainly deserved the name it got. Meant for long term space walks, it was currently being used as a replacement for one of the regular suits that had been in the repair bay for almost a year now. Its massive bulk, compared to the regular short term suits, made it a chore to get into and out of. And this time around, Mark Renard had been the unlucky one to draw the short straw. "You wish," the diminutive half-bolian shot back, snapping the final fastening before moving behind Mark to finish strapping him in. "Harry? You guys ready?" The voice of the Chief Engineer filtered through their individual radios, carrying a noticeable amount of irritation at having to perform this operation at such an ungodly hour. Mark sympathized with the lieutenant. He'd been fast asleep, a rarity for him, when the call had come through. An entire section of sensors on the dorsal array had failed, not surprising after all that Voyager had been through these past few years. As a result, several of the comm, navigation and tactical systems were currently down. And with so many critical systems affected, getting the external array repaired was crucial for Voyager's defense. "We're almost ready, B'elanna. Just getting our stuff together." "Acknowledged. I'll monitor from Engineering. Torres out." Making sure his suit was fully fastened, he motioned the others forward. All three hefted their equipment and stepped into the airlock. Within moments, three miniscule figures floated out of Voyager's dorsal airlock, moving out and up as they latched their magnetic boots onto the outer hull. ----------------------------------------------------------------- "Almost done." Kim ran his tricorder over the affected circuits one last time, rechecking his work. These arrays were designed to take a beating, especially since they were mounted on a ship's outer hull. But when they failed, the only way to repair them was from the outside. Usually such repairs were done routinely every few years when starships put in for maintenance at spacedocks. Considering their situation, they had been lucky the systems had lasted this long. "I'm done." Mark finished tightening the last magnetic bolts on the deck plate, placing his scanner and tricorder back into his equipment pouch. He stood up, a little awkwardly, considering his bulky suit. He took a few moments to look around the empty expanse. Other than his two crewmates a few yards away, and the bulk of Voyager beneath his feet, there was nothing. If he turned and looked up just a little, he could almost convince himself that he was totally alone in the whole universe. He shivered. Shaking his head to clear his suddenly depressing thoughts, he fastened his pouch onto his suit and ambled over to where Chambers was finishing up. "Leslie...?" "Hang on... There, I'm done." She glanced up to see Mark's bulky figure approaching her. She looked up towards Kim. "Harry?" "Yeah, I'm done too." The other acknowledged. "Lt. Torres? How's it looking down there?" All three waited with bated breath for the reply. "Stand by...," the engineer paused for a moment, then continued in a relieved tone, "Yes! Communication just came back on." Another pause. "Navigation's up too. Good work, guys." Her voice held a note of praise. "Finally, tactical just came on line." The collective cheer and mutual congratulations from the repair team was suddenly interrupted by the voice of the Chief Engineer once again. "Hold it! Chambers, I'm getting some strange readings from tactical here. Recheck relay alpha two six four, will you?" "Will do," Leslie replied, bending back down to run her tricorder over the relay. The central ridge on her face puckered in concentration as she rechecked her readings. She frowned. "Are you sure, Lieutenant? I'm not getting any anomalous..." "Oh *SHIT*!!! Hang on! *RED ALERT*!!! RED ALERT!!! All hands brace for impact. I repeat, all hands brace for impact." The engineer's shouts mingled with the sounds of frantic activity in the background, then was almost drowned out by the noise of the red alert klaxons. They almost couldn't hear her scream, "Shields!! Dammit, I need those shields, *NOW*!!" Mark had less than a second to catch his crewmates' eyes before they felt the ship shudder beneath their feet. They nearly fell to their knees. As one, all three looked behind them. Coming up behind Voyager, a huge ship loomed menacingly over their heads. "The Hirogen!" The sign of recognition was clear on the faces of all three crewmen. Even as they watched, a beam of red energy poured out of the enemy vessel to hit the ship's hull a few hundred meters from where they stood. The ship shuddered under the assault as more ships came into view, each firing mercilessly on the crippled Voyager. The angry red beams strafed over Voyager's outer hull, scoring and pitting the surface as they moved closer to where the three of them stood. Mark and Leslie wrenched their eyes away from the hypnotizing sight at the strangled cry from their crewmate. They turned, and were horrified at the sight. Lying on the hull a few meters away, Harry writhed in agony. They rushed over to the prone figure, noticing the jagged piece of titanium hull plating sticking out of his leg. For the moment, it was jamming the hole it had created in the suit, but Mark could already see the telltale cloud of escaping oxygen around the wound. "Renard to Voyager. Medical Emergency. Beam Ensign Kim to Sickbay now," he barked. His shout was met with sickening static as he hit his radio repeatedly to no avail. "The comm systems must be down again," Leslie murmured in a frightened whisper as she knelt beside the injured man, trying frantically to start the suit's diagnostic routines. From what she could tell, Harry had long since lost consciousness, and his suit was in imminent danger of failing. They themselves were in serious danger as another piece of shrapnel glanced off her suit from behind. Suddenly, they felt the deck stop its violent upheaval. They looked up, breathing a sigh of relief. Above their heads, a light show to rival Earth's Northern Lights played itself out. The phaser blasts almost seemed to splash against the shields as they finally came online, the beams causing streaks of light and coruscating bands of energy along the shields' surface. With a prayer of thanks, Mark tried his suit's radio once again. "Renard to Voyager. Come in. Renard to Voyager. Can you read me?" The frantic note in his voice had lessened slightly, but hadn't completely faded. "This... Voyag... Come in, Lieutenant." The voice of the transporter tech was the sweetest thing they could have heard then. The two of them almost let out a whoop of joy. Mark met Leslie's eyes, then answered in a rush. "Yes, this is Renard," he almost shouted. "Medical Emergency. Ensign Kim is injured. Beam us directly to Sickbay." They saw Harry's body dissolve as the transporter whisked him to Sickbay. "What the hell! Voyager..." "Transp... malfunction... One at... time...," the broken voice responded. "You first," Mark replied. Seeing her about to protest, he cut her off, "Can it, Leslie. I've got the better suit. Voyager, beam in Chambers next." He watched her dissolve in a whirl of energy, then waited for the effect to claim him as well. His eyes strayed above him, his eyes widening at the angry red streaks of light emitted by his private aurora. With a final flicker, the shields gave way under the intense barrage, the phasers once again striking Voyager's surface. "Voyager..." He never got to finish his sentence as he felt pieces of shrapnel from the ship's outer hull crash into his back. He was violently thrown off, his magnetic boots useless more than a foot or so from the ship's surface. He felt his equipment pouch, his personal transponder and pieces of his suit being torn off as he tumbled helplessly away from the ship. The last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was the shimmering effect of the transporter as it beamed his transponder away. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Present day How long had he been out? He glanced around at the starry expanse once again. Clearly long enough. There was no sign of Voyager. Or anything else, for that matter. Where could they be? He flinched as the painful memories of his last few conscious minutes reasserted themselves. He suddenly blanched as a thought flitted across his head. What if Voyager had been destroyed? The last he knew, it had been taking a pounding. He felt sick at the idea. Never to see his friends again. It was a horrifying thought. Accompanying that thought on its heels, another even more terrifying notion presented itself to him as he considered his situation. He was floating in a spacesuit in the middle of nowhere in the Delta Quadrant. No one except for Voyager knew about him. And not even Voyager could locate him without his transponder signal. Space was simply too big, and he wouldn't raise a flicker on even the most sensitive sensor, not unless it was pointed in exactly the right direction. The thought of spending eternity trapped in a spacesuit in the middle of nowhere brought him up cold. His reverie was interrupted by a flashing red light on his heads up display. The oxygen monitor. 'Damn!' He didn't really need to breathe, but he knew that loss of oxygen meant loss of pressure. Soon the effects of decompression would set in, and he would start to lose consciousness. He wouldn't die permanently, but the prospect of spending the next millennia unconsciously floating around the Delta Quadrant was a chilling one. Right about then, he became aware of his next problem. He felt a slight growl, and traced the sound to its source. His stomach. He hadn't eaten in who knew how long, and his body was making its needs known quite vocally. He didn't need food or water to survive, but he could just envision starving to death every few days, only to reawaken, the ravenous hunger slowly building with each death, threatening to drive him insane. 'First things first,' he thought to himself sarcastically. Turning to glance back at the HUD, he pinpointed the red areas on the suit display, showing the areas where the suit had been compromised. He let out a breath of relief. Although suit life support systems had been compromised in several places, there was only one actual breach. A small tear, near his left wrist. He juggled his arm inside the suit, grateful for once for its roomy interior. He finally managed to pull his left arm out of the sleeve, clasping it against his chest. He then shut off life support to the arm, in effect sealing off the compromised section. Then Fox Mulder sat back to do the hardest thing he'd ever had to do. He waited... ... and remembered. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Dulles International Airport, DC Main Terminal Sunday, December 26, 2010 2:47 PM "You are sooo wrong." "You really think so, huh?" "Oh, I know so." "Reeeaaaally?" The unexpected drawl would have shocked him a scant ten years ago. And even after more than a decade and a half of knowing her, she still managed to surprise him. "Mmmhmmm," he replied. She in turn smiled at the smug expression on his face, something she'd become intimately familiar with since she'd come to know him. It told her that he knew something. Something that told him he was right and she was wrong. Something he would take his own sweet time telling her. Something that, as of five minutes ago, she now desperately wanted to know. She'd been trying to act as if it didn't bother her, even though the curiosity was killing her inside. Finally she couldn't take it anymore. "Oh fine. All right, I give. You know something, don't you?" He simply raised his eyebrow at her in imitation of one of her patented incredulous glares, his mouth betraying him by quirking into a small smile. "Don't you dare deny it, Fox Mulder. You've got a secret and you're keeping it from me." She moved beside him, grasping his arm and turning him to face her, her voice rising into an almost whine. "Give!" "A little impatient, aren't we, Agent Scully." It was all he could do to keep from grinning outright. Why the smug... "Mulderrrr..." "Aww... come on, Scully. The one time I get a piece of gossip before you, and I have to tip my hand already? I was looking forward to holding it over your head at least until we got back to work after New Year's." It was a foregone conclusion that Scully was the more perceptive of the pair, at least when it came to office gossip. And he had already decided to milk his newfound knowledge for all it was worth. "And what do you call what we're doing right now?" She stopped short a few meters from the gate. Realizing he'd left his partner behind, Mulder stopped, turning to glance at her quizzically. "This *is* a case, isn't it, Mulder?" Her voice was slowly rising, laced with suspicion. "Please tell me you didn't drag me out of my mother's very comfortable house the day after Christmas just to go on a wild goose chase." 'Damn. One little slip.' He shook his head. Still, he had tried. "I heard LA is pleasant this time of year," he started in a nonchalant voice, but was cut off immediately. "LA is freezing this time of year." She was starting to get angry, her ire radiating off her as she stood in front of him, arms at her hips, her foot tapping the ground as she glared at him. "Which is why we are going to spend the next week completely ensconced in a nice hotel room, away from everybody." He glanced from her to the gate, where the short line was rapidly disappearing as the passengers boarded. "You rat," she seethed. "The one time I get to spend with my family... how dare you? What will my mother think?" "Whose idea do you think this was?" "What!?" That brought her up short. "Mom suggested it?" she asked, her eyes daring him to lie. When he simply nodded, she let her shoulders slump in defeat. "You get to see your mom whenever you want to, Scully. And this year, Charlie couldn't make it for Christmas, and neither could Tara, what with Matthew being sick. So it would have been just you and Bill. And you needed the time off. Your mother's words, not mine." "But Mulder, it's Christmas." The protest, however, was clearly half-hearted. "Which is why I waited until today. Your mom wanted me to drag you off three days ago when our leave started. Now come on, or we're gonna miss our flight." "But what about the case, Mulder? I saw the 302. The missing college students..." She hurried beside him as they walked over to the gate. He shrugged. "It was just an excuse. I've already got it solved. Some lamebrain on the UCLA campus trying to play at being prankster." "Hello sir," the attendant greeted them as they reached the gate. "You're the last ones." She took their tickets, rapidly entering them into the computer. Looking up at them, she said, "Seats 1A and 1B. Enjoy your flight, sir." "Thank you," Mulder replied before Scully could open her mouth. He simply grinned at her expression as he grabbed the two passes and entered the gate. ----------------------------------------------------------------- They entered the airplane, moving forward to claim their seats. When they finished settling in, Scully turned to look at her partner, who was visibly ecstatic at the extra leg room. "First class, Mulder? On our salary?" "Scully, this is a 747 flying its domestic leg across the country on the day after Christmas. How full did you think they'd get? They couldn't *give* these seats away. Besides, nothing but the best for my beautiful partner." He saw the color rise on her cheeks as she blushed. Trying to hide her reaction, she hurriedly reached forward into the seat pocket to find a magazine. He smiled, congratulating himself, then leaned back into the seat as he felt the plane take off. 'Really ought to fly first class more often,' he mused as the captain's voice floated over the intercom. "This is Captain Davies. Welcome to PanStar Flight 327 non- stop to Los Angeles. My copilot is Commander Black. Our flying time will be approximately five and a half hours, so sit back and enjoy the flight folks." 'Exactly what I intend to do.' Mulder looked up as the flight attendant walked by. "Excuse me, but what's the in-flight movie." "Umm... It's an old action movie sir. 'Turbulence', I think," she replied with a smile before walking off. "Great!" Mulder groaned. He felt his partner's hand settle on top of his, and darted a look at her. She seemed unaware of her actions, her face still buried in the magazine. Her fingers, however, seemed to have a life of their own as they traced lazy swirls on his hand. Mulder lowered his gaze to their joined hands, an eyebrow rising before he allowed a small grin to surface. "Mulder..." The soft whisper, almost moan, caught his attention. His head jerked back up. Scully had put down the magazine, her questing hand now sliding up his arm. Her eyes were locked with his, a playful, almost mischievous expression gracing the aquamarine orbs. Both hands now traipsed up his shoulder, across his chest, until they reached his neck. She slowly stroked it, leaning over the armrest to brush her lips against his throat. He gulped, then managed a hoarse, "Scully? What are you doing?" "I've not forgotten, Mulder." "For... forgotten, Scully?" The lips that had now latched on to his neck, suckling slightly, parted slowly in a smile. He closed his eyes, grateful that the moan he let escape couldn't be heard by the closest passengers a couple of rows away. "About the date, Mulder. You know, don't you? Are you gonna tell me, Mulder?" The sultry whisper caused him to swallow again. "D... date?" 'Almost got him,' Scully mused, her fingers rising to slide into his hair. Her lips moved up his throat past his jaw, until they came to rest against the corner of his lips. Her whisper against his skin sent exciting shivers through his body, "Yes, Mulder. Lynn's date. When is she due, Mulder?" "If I tell you, then how am I going to win the pool, Scully?" She blinked, only then realizing that his hands had mimicked her movements, now firmly embedded in her hair as his mouth turned just enough to latch onto hers. He almost pulled her out of her seat and into his lap, the kiss escalating with passion. Having to restrain themselves while at her mother's hadn't exactly been the escape from tension they'd expected. At the back of her mind, she grudgingly acknowledged that this vacation was probably exactly what they needed. "Nice try though. Definitely points for imagination." She was brought out of the passion induced haze by his calm words, not to mention the accompanying grin. Damn him. How had he turned this around so quickly? She had been the one trying to seduce *him*. And now she couldn't wait for the plane to land so she could whisk him to the hotel and have her way with him. She felt a surge of heat race through her body as she involuntarily ran her tongue over her lips, tasting him on her. Finally his words filtered through, causing her to narrow her eyes at him. She could do this, she convinced herself. She was strong enough to resist him, wasn't she? She was after all a goddamn department head at the goddamn FBI. She settled back in her seat, her head turning away from her partner's. "Fine," she ground out, "see if I care." 'Don't look at him,' her inner voice cried out, just before she could succumb to the hand still enmeshed in her hair. 'But he's doing that thing with his fingers,' she cried back, even as she felt his thumb stroke the sensitive skin right behind her ear. She shuddered, biting her lip to keep from crying out. The teeth digging into her lips couldn't keep the moan from escaping when his lips joined his fingers in their task. "You, Dana Katherine Scully, are a witch. You know that? One very tempting, arousing, absolutely gorgeous witch." His lips fluttered over her neck, reciprocating her earlier gestures. "When we get to our hotel, I'm going to lock us in for a week," he growled. "I don't know, Mulder. I've always wanted to go to Universal Studios. This might be my ch... chance." Damn, she'd hoped to get that out without her voice breaking. She was sure he'd caught the small catch. When she felt his teeth replace his lips, showering little nips along her collarbone, she sighed. It was a lost cause anyway. Maybe if she tried desperate... She turned, leaning into his kisses. "Mulder, please. I promise not to tell." "Oh, all right. Although Lynn will kill me if she knows I told you." He sighed. "February 23, Scully. She's due February 23. Happy? She wanted to surprise you." Her eyes widened. "Oh, Mulder. How did you find out?" "I overheard her talking to Colton." He shrugged, then smiled as he remembered. "When she caught me grinning my head off, she told me not to tell you on pain of her pulling my heart out and snacking on it. Her words, not mine." Her hand moved to his cheek, slowly stroking it. "I'm sorry I spoilt the surprise, Mulder. But I'm touched. Thank you for telling me." She leaned back in her seat. "Oh god. We'll have to go shopping while we're in LA. I know just the thing to get the little..." "Oh, no you don't. You're going to pretend you don't know anything about this. And when we get back to DC, you're going to act like you're surprised when she actually tells you." "But..." "Scully, promise me," he cut her off sternly. "Oh, all right. But it's going to be hard." "I know. That's why I didn't want to tell you." "But I'm glad you did." She moved closer to him, her lips grazing his as she added, "And when we get to our hotel, I'll show you exactly how..." Both paused, their bodies frozen mid kiss as they both felt it. A slight tingle, running down both their spines. The feeling of a thousand pinpricks dancing over their skins. The sudden heaviness in the air, the pressure inside their skulls as the field of their quickening brushed against something just as unique. Another quickening. Which meant another immortal. And, considering their current situation, not more than a few rows behind them. "Mulder..." "I know," he whispered back. "He must've been sitting all the way in the back." He reached inside his coat, feeling for the comforting weight of his sidearm. Their other weapons, however... He stood up, getting out into the aisle to open the overhead compartment. He'd barely got it open when he froze. With Mulder blocking her view, Scully didn't realize anything was wrong until she saw him stiffen. "Mulder...?" Her question died on her lips when she saw the reason. He smiled wanly at her widening eyes, the smile turning into a grimace as he was roughly prodded forward. He quietly slid into his seat, allowing himself a silent sigh of relief that he had the aisle seat. Not that that was much by way of protection for his partner, but at least it was something. Both agents looked up at the thing that had caused Mulder's earlier reaction. The barrel of a singularly dangerous looking automatic rifle stared back at them. The owner of the weapon, the swarthy, muscular passenger from the row behind theirs, looked down at them, his tight grip on the rifle daring them to make even one wrong move. "Oh, my god!" The shriek pulled the man's attention to the seats behind the agents. The closest occupied seats were at least a couple of rows back. The distraction gave Mulder the opportunity he was looking for. He reached out and grabbed the rifle barrel. He yanked sharply, almost pulling off the man's finger with it. The other had barely had a chance to register the action before the rifle was pointing back at him. "I am willing to sacrifice my man's life for our cause. Are you willing to do the same?" the quiet voice sounded from behind them. Mulder slowly rose in his seat, the weapon still pointed at its previous owner. He gestured for the other to move back, so he could have an unobstructed view down the aisle. He looked past the middle aged couple, clutching each other protectively a few rows back, the group of teenagers, huddled together in fright, his gaze taking note of all the passengers in the cabin. His glance reached the back of the section and froze, his face paling at the sight. Just in front of the stairwell stood the other immortal. He was tall and lean, with a crewcut accentuating his military demeanor. The source of the earlier shriek, a flight attendant, was held in front of him, a gun to the side of her head. Mulder tightened his grip on the rifle, causing the immortal to move his hand ever so slightly. The agent narrowed his eyes; he could hear the click as the hammer was cocked, the sound almost deafening in the silence. He looked into the face of the frightened woman, her eyes pleading with him to help her, muffled cries of fear escaping from her mouth. With a sigh of defeat, Mulder threw the rifle back, its owner scrabbling to catch it before it fell to the floor. "Much better." The immortal spun the attendant out of his grasp, motioning her to one of the seats. He then raised the gun to point it squarely at Mulder's chest. "Now, if you please..." he added, gesturing towards the seat. Mulder grudgingly sat back down, his hand automatically going to Scully's. He gripped it tight, darting a quick glance at her before turning back to their captor. He watched the immortal walk towards them. "Go keep watch at the stairwell, Simon," he ordered his subordinate. "I want to talk to the hero here." Simon nodded, then moved back down the aisle. Meanwhile, the immortal moved past the agents to lean against the seat opposite them. He looked down at them, a contemplative look in his eyes, as if he were gauging them somehow. He seemed to come to a decision when he inclined his head slightly. "Karl Reicher," he snapped out without preamble. When neither of the agents responded to his unasked question, he smiled at them, the maliciousness evident in the set of his mouth. "Nice reflexes, handling my man like that. Name?" At their continued silence, he frowned slightly. He jumped forward, the gun coming to rest squarely against Mulder's forehead. His other hand reached into Mulder's coat. Neither agent moved while he pulled out his wallet. He moved back, flipping it to reveal Mulder's ID. His eyes widened as he looked back up at them. "Well, well, well! I'm impressed. Not often you see one of us in that profession," he exclaimed. "Fox Mulder," he muttered, glancing back at the badge. "And you," he asked, taking note of Scully's business suit. "His partner?" Both agents glared at him. He shrugged, raising his gun to point vaguely behind them. "Or do you need some... persuasion?" "If you shoot," Scully ground out, "you'll depressurize the cabin." "We're not high enough for that to matter," he shot back. "Now, before I do start shooting people, NAME!" he barked. "Dana Scully," she replied without flinching. "Whatever you're planning, you have to know, it'll never..." "And you, dear lady, are condemning me before you even know what I am planning." He pulled back, reaching behind him to pull out a two-way radio. "Seth? Neil? Get up here, will you?" he muttered into it. A few minutes later, two other men walked up to Karl. "Seth, I want you to listen to me carefully. These two are FBI agents, so I need you to keep an extra eye on them. Don't hesitate to put a bullet in their heads if they so much as twitch. You hear me? And call me immediately." He turned back to the agents. "Agents, if you please, your weapons." He held out his hand, aiming the gun at them with the other. Seeing no other choice, both agents reached in to retrieve their sidearms, handing them over to the immortal. "And your other weapons..." "We had to check them in," Mulder replied. Reicher stared at them for a second. "Now why is it that I don't believe you, hmm? Seth, cover me will you?" He tucked his gun behind him, then reached up to the baggage compartment. He deftly reached in and pulled out their coats, feeling around inside them to confirm his suspicions. "Be grateful I am the forgiving type." He turned to Seth, adding, "Call me if there is any trouble." Putting the coats over his arm, he pulled the other man aside. After a few hurried words, Reicher watched the man he'd called Neil head towards the stairwell behind the first class cabin. He pulled out what looked like a miniature display device from his pocket, glanced at it briefly, frowned, then turned to follow Neil. ----------------------------------------------------------------- It had been almost an hour since the first signs of trouble. Soon after Reicher and Neil headed for the upper level, the agents had felt the plane turning and descending. From the occasional chirp of voices they could hear over Seth's radio, the agents had concluded that there were at least seven terrorists on board, other than Reicher. Unfortunately, they hadn't had a chance to talk or observe anything else under Seth's constant guard. The one time Mulder had tried turning to talk to his partner, he'd felt the uncomfortable sensation of the rifle barrel thrust against the back of his head. And with Simon standing so far back, there was no way Mulder could incapacitate Seth and get to him before he had a chance to sound the alarm or hurt someone. Finally, Reicher reappeared. "Well, how are my two favorite FBI agents doing today?" he asked jovially, walking up to their seats. The agents glared at him silently. "You know, your being on this plane actually makes this somewhat easier. You, Mulder, come with me. Seth, keep an eye on the lady while we're gone." He gestured toward Mulder, then pointed back towards the stairwell. Mulder reluctantly stood and walked past Reicher, heading to the rear cabins. They walked past frightened passengers, all huddled together in the front of the plane. Mulder chafed at his inability to help them. But with the four other terrorists he saw walking down the aisles, he didn't dare take the chance that one of them might get off a few shots before he could reach them. "Right here is fine." The two of them came to a halt several rows behind the last passenger, right beside the overwing emergency exit. Reicher kept his rifle trained on Mulder, then asked him to turn around. "I want you to look on the floor next to the exit. Tell me what you see. Quietly. I don't want the passengers to hear." Mulder obliged, leaning down to peer between the seat and the section wall. "I see an open panel on the floor. Beneath it, under some insulation, there are two tubes containing some sort of liquid. And it looks like there's a small black box attached to the tubes." "Those tubes, Agent Mulder, are fuel lines. They lead right to the wing mounted tanks. The box you see next to them is what I call a sparker." He pointed to a small device clipped to his belt. "And this is the control for that little beauty. My own invention," he added proudly. "One push of this button, one little spark, and I think you can guess the rest. Now there's three other boxes just like this one all over the plane, one for each engine, so don't go getting any bright ideas." "You're mad," Mulder whispered, standing back up. "Why..." "I didn't get you down here to ask questions. Now that you've seen this, let's go upstairs and tour the cockpit, shall we?" He stood aside, gesturing for Mulder to precede him again. They returned to the front of the airplane, climbing the stairs and walking across the empty cabin into the cockpit. The last terrorist was in there, holding a gun to the head of the pilot. Both glanced up at the new arrivals, the pilot with an air of defeat, before going back to their tasks. Mulder glanced at the copilot, slumped in his chair, his head hanging at an unnatural angle. His jaw hardened at the sight. He whirled at his captor. "You didn't have to do that." "Casualties of war, Agent." Reicher shrugged. "Now, if you would be kind enough to have a seat." Reicher waited for Mulder to sit, then pulled out two headsets. He put one on himself, then handed the other to Mulder. He then reached over and flicked a switch on the overhead control panel, bringing the radio to life. "Dulles, this is PanStar 327. Please respond," he spoke into the mike. "Repeat, Dulles, this is PanStar 327." There were a few seconds of static, then a frantic voice boomed out from within their headsets. "327! Where the *hell* are you? You're off our radar, and we've been trying to get radio contact for the past hour. Are you all right?" Reicher turned to Mulder, one hand over his mike. "Give your identification, then tell him what I showed you." Mulder shot him an ugly look, then spoke into his mouthpiece. "This is Special Agent Fox Mulder from the FBI. My badge number is JTT047101111. This plane has been taken over by eight terrorists. They are holding the crew and passengers hostage. They also have some sort of device wired to the fuel lines onboard that could possibly be used to blow up the plane." "That's enough." Reicher tore the headset off Mulder's head. "I'll give you five minutes to verify Agent Mulder's badge number. You'll be hearing from me again. Keep this channel clear." With a flick of his fingers, the radio channel went silent. Mulder and Reicher stared at each other silently. Exactly five minutes later, he switched the radio back on. "Dulles, this is PanStar 327. By now, you will have verified Agent Mulder's identity. These are our demands. We are the Children of the Anth Karish. Last Friday, a joint operation of the ATF and FBI resulted in four of our comrades being unjustly imprisoned. We demand that these men be released within the next hour. Further, we demand you provide them with an immediate pardon, and that a helicopter be made available for their use. No tricks. We are fully prepared to blow up the plane. I will call you back in one hour to confirm that our demands have been met." With that, he switched the radio back off, then tossed aside the handset. He pulled out the small device from his pocket again. He noticed the readout, his expression relaxing slightly. Stuffing it back into his pocket, he silently motioned towards the door, then stepped back as Mulder got up and walked past him out the door. He escorted Mulder back down to his seat, then left him there under the supervision of the two men in the forward cabin, while he returned upstairs. Unfortunately, nothing had changed in the meantime, so Mulder sat back quietly, waiting for his chance. The first sign of relief came a few minutes later, when Seth looked up to signal his partner forward. When Simon walked up, Seth muttered a quick, "I'll be right back. Karl said to keep a close eye on these two." He walked towards the rear, and Mulder heard the sound of the restroom door closing and latching. 'At last!' Mulder thought to himself with excitement. "Hey! Psst!" The other man frowned at the whisper. He was forced to divide his attention between the agents and the rest of the passengers in the cabin. However, his attention soon became riveted on the agent as he continued to whisper. It had taken a long time for Mulder to gain his current level of proficiency in the ability, and he knew that the only sure way of perfecting it was experience. He still wasn't sure about his ability to control more than one person at a time. But he was good enough to affect Simon. "Give me the gun, Simon," he whispered. The resonance in his voice was transmitted directly from the auditory canals in Simon's ears to a certain portion of his brain, one extremely vulnerable to suggestion. As a result, the man froze for a moment, then slowly reached out and quietly handed Mulder his rifle. Mulder passed the weapon to Scully, then proceeded to grill Simon about the rest of his cohorts. He confirmed Reicher's story, but it left Mulder feeling uneasy nonetheless. By then, Mulder could hear the sounds of Seth finishing up in the restroom. Mulder quickly turned to his partner, seeing her reinsert the emptied clip into the weapon. He handed it back to Simon, then added a suggestion to behave normally, but ignore any alarms or unexpected actions from his fellow conspirators. Satisfied, Mulder leaned back in his seat to await Seth's return. He noticed his partner frowning as she placed the bullets she'd removed into a pocket. "Something the matter, Scully?" he whispered. "The bullets, Mulder. They felt funny. Like..." "Like they were made of plastic?" Mulder asked. "Yeah, I felt that from the guns also. I think they might be some sort of plastic/ceramic composite. It would explain how they got them onto the plane undetected. I think I heard Frohike mention hearing something about them at the last defcon the Gunmen attended. Not that great at precision shooting, but at close range..." He stopped abruptly, his head jerking to the side as the butt of the rifle struck him. "Stop the chatter!!" Seth brought the rifle to bear on the agents. "What the hell are you doing, Simon? You were told to keep an eye on these two," Seth barked at the other man. Simon stared back impassively. Seth shook his head with disgust. "Get your ass back there. And keep your eyes open." Simon nodded, then walked back to his original post. "Moron," Seth muttered. "And you two. The next time you talk is the last time. Got that?" Mulder simply grinned, then got to work. Now that Simon would be out of the way, it was only a matter of moments before Mulder had possession of both rifles. He quickly had them subdued, implanting a suggestion to cooperate with the agents. He then stood in the aisle, quietly instructing the passengers to stay calm, and more importantly to act normally. He leaned back down to discuss the next course of action with his partner. "We obviously can't go back there ourselves." Mulder nodded agreement. "And they might come in here any minute to check on us." "Maybe we could send one of these two," Scully suggested. "Get him to send one of them in here to relieve him." "Good idea. We'll use Simon. I don't trust the other guy." Mulder pulled Simon up by his collar. "Now listen carefully to what I'm about to tell you. We're going to give you a rifle, but you are not to use it under any circumstances. Is that clear?" When he nodded, Mulder handed him a gun, the magazine and chamber emptied, just in case. "I want you to go out back. You will tell the first of your cohorts that you come across that you want him to come in here to relieve you. Then you will take his place, but you will not react to any alarms or calls for help from your friends. Do you understand?" Again a nod, then, "Good. Now, go on." Mulder nodded in the direction of the stairwell. He followed a strategy similar to what he'd done with Seth and Simon, and had taken care of all seven terrorists within twenty minutes. The only trouble came when one of them, Neil, turned out to be somewhat resistant to suggestion, and had to be physically subdued. He grinned at the puzzled expressions on the other passengers as he took care of the terrorists one after the other. Mulder glanced down at Seth and Neil, lying trussed up in the seat behind theirs. The rest of them were spread about on the lower deck, each armed with a useless rifle, each under orders not to interfere with any action on the agents' part. Now, it only remained to take care of their leader. His being an immortal made Karl Reicher immune to Mulder's unique brand of attack. They would have to take care in overcoming him, making sure not to allow any of the other passengers to come to harm. There was also the slight matter of Mulder's suspicion as to his true intentions. "I don't know, Scully. It just seems wrong, somehow. Our kind, by definition, are loners. I just don't see one of us going after the kind of publicity this will bring up. If we do land, his face is going to be splashed on every media there is." "Speaking of landing, where exactly are we headed?" Scully asked, looking out the window. Mulder shrugged. "When I was in the cockpit, all I saw was open water. I think we're headed across the Atlantic." "The Atlantic!?" Scully asked incredulously. "Mulder," she hissed, "this was a domestic flight. Do we have enough fuel to get all the way to Europe?" "Well, it was a six hour nonstop flight, and they usually carry some extra, so we should be okay for now. But taking care of all our friends took a while," he said, checking his watch. "It's been a little more than two hours since we took off. We need to get the plane turned around soon if we want to make it back to the mainland. Even if we came across any airports out here, I'm not sure if there's any that can land a plane this size." Scully sighed. At her partner's questioning look, she shook her head. "Nothing. It's just... We sure know how to pick 'em, don't we?" Mulder grinned back at her. "Oh, I don't know about you, Scully, but I'm having the time of my life." "Ha, ha, verry funny. Notice how much I'm *not* laughing, Mulder." "Aww... c'mon Scully. Can't you take a joke? After all this time with me?" He leaned close to her face, his humor starting to get infectious. She simply smiled exasperatedly at him, then sobered as the moment passed. "Plenty of time for jokes later, Mulder. Got any bright ideas about how to go about this?" "Like I said, Scully. I don't think Reicher is telling us the whole story. I don't think he's just some terrorist out to get his friends out of prison. Our no-negotiation federal policy prohibits prisoner releases like these. There's no way his friends are going to go free. And even if they were, how does he intend to escape the horde of police that's sure to be waiting for us wherever we land? I'm telling you, the whole thing just doesn't add up." "But Mulder, we questioned his men. They would have told us if he were lying, right?" "Not if they believed it. No, it's just Reicher who's acting funny. That device he had with him, the one he kept checking every so often, it looked like a miniature version of the GPS device I used to find you that time in Peru. Same type of display and everything." Mulder saw his partner grab onto her seat just as he felt the plane change course. "And that's the third time we've changed course so far. I think we're heading to a drop-off point or something." "What, you think he's going to jump off the plane with his fellow terrorists, and let us go on our merry way?" "No. The others would have told us about that when we questioned them. But you're closer than you think. He's just using them for his own purposes. I'm sure of it." "But then, why this elaborate charade, Mulder? Why the threat about blowing up the plane?" "Agent Mulder?" The quiet, but frantic voice came from behind them, causing both agents to bring their rifles to bear on the owner. They let out a breath of relief when the saw the flight attendant from earlier standing a few rows back. "Yes, Ms..." "Madeline. My name is Madeline. I didn't want to interrupt, but I think this lady is having a heart attack." She looked from the agents to the seats behind her, a worried expression on her face. Scully immediately got up, moving past Mulder and down the aisle. She knelt beside the middle aged couple. "Sir," she addressed the man, "I'm a doctor. Do you know what is wrong with your wife?" She looked past him, worried at seeing the woman clutch her chest in pain. The man was holding a purse, delving within it for something. He finally came up with a small prescription vial. "It's just a minor heart condition. She'll be fine; she just needs her medication is all," he replied. He quickly unscrewed the cap, pulling out a pill and placing it in her mouth. He waited until she swallowed it. A few moments later, she seemed to calm down, the pain obviously lessening from the expression on her face. "I guess all this excitement just finally caught up with her. She should be okay for a while, but... That man said that you were FBI agents, right?" Scully nodded. "Agent Dana Scully," she said, holding out her hand. "Scott Hollister," he replied, shaking her hand. "Do you know what's going to happen to us? I don't know if my wife can take much more of this." "I'm sorry, Mr. Hollister. We're doing the best that we can. All I can ask is that you remain calm, and act normally, no matter what happens. We don't want to tip off any of our captors that we have control of this section." The man nodded silently, his hand reaching out to his wife's. "Don't worry, hon. It's going to be all right." Scully stood and turned towards Madeline. "Thank you for your help, Agent Scully," she said, turning to walk back to her seat. Scully nodded, and was about to pass her when she had an idea. "Madeline?" "Yes?" "Where did this flight originate?" "Oh, we started out in Cairo. Why?" "Are you carrying anything valuable on board? Or do you know if there's anyone important on the plane?" "Hmm... I'm not sure about the passengers. But we are carrying some cargo heading for the Los Angeles Museum of Natural Sciences. I think it's one of those mummy cases." She smiled. "Paul said it gave him the willies." "Paul?" "Oh, he's the chief attendant," she replied, nodding towards the rear. "Ah. Thanks Madeline." Scully walked back to her seat, relating to Mulder what she'd found. "That must be it, Scully." "Mulder, I hardly think he's going to steal an entire sarcophagus. It's not exactly easy to get off the plane. And, as you yourself said, anywhere we land, we're bound to attract attention." "No, Scully. I don't think he's after the entire sarcophagus. I think he's after the Tear of Osiris." "The what of what?" "The Tear of Osiris, Scully." Seeing her skeptical expression, he grinned. Seeing him about to launch into his lecture mode, Scully sighed as she rolled her eyes. She sat back to listen. "I was reading about the expedition that was sponsored by the LA museum. Apparently they found a hidden chamber in one of the previously explored pyramids, and there was a mummy buried there. A priest of Osiris, I think the article said. Anyway, he was said to be buried with this Tear. According to legend, Osiris shed a single tear upon his betrayal by his brother, Set. The tear fell to earth and crystallized. It was believed that one had merely to be in its presence to be able to communicate with the gods themselves." "I never pictured you for the archaeology type, Mulder. Although, after that thing in England, I suppose I should know better." "Actually, I thought that the Tear might be an alien communication device of some kind," Mulder confessed sheepishly. "There have been reports of UFO sightings that date back to pre- Babylonian days, so it's entirely possible," he added defensively. "I was hoping to catch the exhibit while we were down in LA." "Ah, now the truth comes out," Scully smiled, shaking her head. "Mulder, you're hopeless. But, even if that were true, why this great interest in the Tear? I hardly think an ancient god communicator, or even an alien communicator, would be worth this much trouble." "Even if said device was supposed to be the largest flawless sapphire ever beheld by human eyes, contained in a case made of solid gold and encrusted with enough jewels to have bought Egypt ten times over?" "Well, that does change things. But if it were that expensive, why didn't they ship it more securely?" "Oh, they don't know where it is." "What!?" "Well, when they opened up the sarcophagus in Cairo, they didn't find the Tear. They are shipping what they think is a simple case with a plain old mummy in it." "Then..." "Which is not to say that the thing doesn't exist. And I think our friend Karl may have an inside track as to the its location. Maybe there's some sort of hidden compartment in the sarcophagus or something." "Whatever, Mulder. The fact still remains. How are we going to get Reicher without getting any of the passengers killed?" "I..." Mulder never got to finish his sentence. He felt a shudder run through the airplane, coincident with a very familiar sound. He looked at his partner, his expression somber. The sound of gunfire. And it sounded as if it came from upstairs. He leaped up, Scully following right behind him. Quietly they slid up the stairs. They reached the door to the cockpit without incident, none of the terrorists coming to stop them. Mulder whispered a prayer of thanks that his suggestions still held. He held up three fingers, counting down then kicking open the door. Together they rushed inside, taking their usual positions with Mulder high and Scully low. They saw the cockpit riddled with bullets. Both the pilot and Simon lay on the floor, mortally wounded. Reicher stood over them, as if surveying the damage he'd caused, his rifle held at the ready. He turned when he heard the door crash open, his eyes widening at the sight. He swung around, his rifle already coming up to bear at the agents. They opened fire. Five shots, all to the chest at point blank range, and Reicher staggered back, a stupefied expression on his face. His mouth opened, a half formed, "How..." on his lips before his eyes rolled back in his head. He fell to his knees, then slumped to the floor. The agents rushed forward, Scully going to the downed pilot while Mulder ripped out some of the wires hanging from a shattered console to form a makeshift pair of handcuffs. He pulled Reicher's hands behind his back, then made sure the wires were secure around his wrists. He then kneeled down next to Scully. "He's hurt bad, Mulder. He was shot twice. One just grazed his arm, but the other went right through his shoulder. It didn't do too much damage, and the exit's clean, thank god. I think I can stop the bleeding, but I'll need some medical supplies." "I'll get a flight attendant." Mulder stood and rushed outside, returning a few minutes later with Madeline in tow. She froze in shock at the sight of the four bodies in the cockpit. Her hands shook as she handed Scully a first aid kit. While Scully worked on the pilot, Mulder knelt next to Simon. His fingers searched his neck, but it only confirmed what he'd already heard, or rather not heard. No sign of a heartbeat. He stood back up, looking out the window. They seemed to be flying straight. And the readout below the words 'ALT' said they were flying fairly level, although the bullethole right next to it didn't ease his worry any. He guessed that the autopilot was engaged, but could see no indication as to it's status. Of course, it was probably one of the displays that had been shot through. He turned to the flight attendant, and saw her staring at Scully and the pilot in shock. He placed a hand on her shoulder, trying to bring her out of it. "Madeline?" It took a couple of tries before his words penetrated. She looked up at Mulder, her face threatening to break into tears at any moment. It was only now that he noticed how young she really was. She looked barely out of her teens. He felt a moment of sympathy towards her. "Madeline," he repeated, "I need for you to be brave, okay. I need some information from you. Can you do that? Do you feel up to answering a few questions?" When she nodded silently, he asked, "Do you know how to fly the plane?" Her expression went from frightened to panicked to terrified in a matter of seconds. 'Whoops, wrong question.' Mulder rapidly tried to backpedal, asking instead, "I mean, do you know how to work the radio or the autopilot?" "N... No I don't. I'm so sorry." The tears finally burst. "Is... is the captain going to be okay?" She reached up to grab Mulder's shirt. "There, there. It's going to be okay. The captain's going to be just fine." He awkwardly patted her back as she cried against his chest. He looked over her shoulder, his eyes meeting his partner's, imploring her help. She was the one better suited for comforting distressed people, be they suspects, witnesses, or victims. He usually only managed to get them more angry, more depressed, or more frightened. She smiled, standing up to pull Madeline away from Mulder. "The captain is going to be fine, but we need your help to carry him out, okay. He needs to lie down, and there's not enough room in here." She smiled when she saw the attendant's face clear up as she nodded slowly. "Can you go out and prepare one of the seats? Recline it as far as it'll go, and get a couple of pillows to help support him." Scully watched her nod and rush out of the room. She turned to Mulder. "I guess she just needed something to do to keep her mind off this. Can you lift him?" "Piece of cake, Scully." Mulder reached down, easily hefting the pilot as he stood back up. He followed Scully out of the cockpit, gently laying the unconscious man down on the already prepared seat. "He's fine for now, but Mulder," Scully whispered, "he's in no condition to fly the plane." Mulder nodded, then turned to Madeline, who hovered nearby. A quick question revealed that there were less than 50 people on the plane. He leaned close to Scully. "I think we should let the passengers know." "Mulder," she said warningly, "they might panic." "There aren't that many on board, Scully. Besides, unless you've been holding out on me, neither of us has any experience flying a plane." He paused. "Umm... you haven't been holding out, have you?" "Of course not," she replied indignantly. "It's not exactly something I can hide. Besides, I hate flying. What makes you think..." "Okay, okay. Sorry." Mulder held his hands up in defeat. "It was just a thought." He turned to Madeline. "What about the other flight attendants? You think any of them know how to fly?" "I... I don't know," she stammered. "I can ask..." She turned and headed back down, Mulder following behind her. She stopped short when she saw the rest of the terrorists calmly walking the aisles, oblivious to the recent events. "Don't worry about them. Let me take care of them. You go talk to your crewmates." Mulder brushed past her, walking up to the terrorists. Without any resistance, he took the rifles from their hands, pushing them back towards the rear of the plane. A quick round of questions revealed that none of them knew anything about flying. However, Mulder did find something else of interest. He saw their coats lying in one the rear seats. He also saw a parachute and a rectangular steel case, obviously for the artifact, next to them. 'I guess Reicher wasn't going to wait to land after all,' he mused. He turned to the sound of the approaching footsteps. Madeline walked up to him, the other attendants in tow. Unfortunately, she said, none of them had any flying knowledge either. Mulder sighed, then asked them to bring him some rope. He tied up the terrorists, hefted their coats and the case, then headed to the front again. By then, Scully had all the passengers seated together. She nodded, confirming her assent. Mulder walked in front of the passengers, giving them a quick rundown of their situation. However, as he'd expected, there was no help to be had from that quarter either. He only succeeded in raising the general anxiety level on the plane. "Well, we had to try. I think I remember what Reicher did when he turned on the radio. Scully, I need you to stay in here and keep the passengers calm. I'll see if I can radio for help. Wish me luck." "Good luck, Mulder," she replied fervently, looking after his disappearing back. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Present Day Radio. The radio. It was important, somehow. He shook his head, trying to clear it of the cobwebs that seemed to have taken residence. Of course, how could he have forgotten? This was the monster. Used specifically for long term space walks. Which meant it had its own built-in subspace transponder. It was meant to be a two-way communication and control device, used to guide repair teams while coordinating their tasks. But with a little modification... He got to work. Pulling in his right hand into the suit's chest cavity as well, he started to rewire the transponder system. A little deft reengineering, a few commands to the onboard computer, and a few minutes later... or was it hours, he'd lost track... he got it working. A passable subspace beacon. It was weaker than a transponder, and he'd had to sacrifice its two-way communication capability. But he had managed to boost its range a hundredfold, the weak subspace signal beacon sounding a distress call across a distance of over 10 light years. The beacon wouldn't be very good at directionality, but at least it would let someone know that he was out here. If there was anyone out there to pick up the signal, of course. His enthusiasm from his task quickly evaporated as the chilling reality set in again. For all he knew, he was the only survivor of Voyager's latest run-in with the Hirogen. No, he wouldn't do this, he chided himself. He wouldn't let himself sink into these depressive thoughts. If someone found him, well and good. If not... if not, then he'd still survive. The firm resolve floated around his head as he closed his eyes. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Somewhere over the Atlantic Sunday, December 26, 2010 5:37 PM In the cockpit, Mulder sat in the pilot's chair, pulling on the headset he'd been given earlier. He stoically ignored Reicher and the other bodies as he tried to remember the exact sequence of buttons he'd seen pushed. He hit what he thought was the right combination, momentarily startled at the sudden static in his ear. "Hello? Dulles? Can anyone hear me?" He repeated himself, but received no response. He tried fiddling with a couple of the switches, until finally he seemed to get through. He uttered a cry of triumph when he heard the broken voice over his headset. "We're still trying to release the prisoners you asked for. Can you tell..." Mulder smiled, then cut him off. "This is Special Agent Fox Mulder. The terrorists have been taken care of. Can you hear me?" "Yes, we can hear you, but just barely," the incredulous voice replied. "Would you mind repeating that, son?" "No problem. I said, this is Special Agent Fox Mulder, and the terrorists are no longer in control. One of them is dead. The others are all currently tied up." He smiled at the shouts he could barely hear over the radio. "And the passengers?" His smile turned grim. "They're okay. But the copilot is dead. And the pilot has been shot. My partner is a doctor and she's taking care of him, but he needs medical attention." "Good god! Who's flying the plane?" "At the moment? No one. So you see my problem," he replied wryly. "I think the autopilot's working okay, but I'm not sure. This cockpit looks like swiss cheese, it's got so many bulletholes. One of the terrorists went crazy in here with his automatic. Half the displays in here are dark, and I have no clue what I'm supposed to do. I was lucky to get this radio working at all, and I don't think I have it right. You keep breaking up." "I'm not sure we can do anything about that. It sounds like part of the radio itself might have been hit. Also, we still don't know where the hell you are. You're too low for radar contact." Mulder chewed on his lip, an idea forming in his mind. "Hold on." He pulled off his headset, rushing over to Reicher's side. He noted that the other was still unconscious, the wounds from the agents' bullets still not quite healed. He felt in the terrorists pocket until he found what he was looking for. He pulled out the miniature device he'd seen Reicher checking before. He went back to the pilot's seat and put on the headset. "Okay, I'm back. One of the terrorists has what looks like a small GPS module. Will that do?" "Yes," the voice replied excitedly. "What does it say?" Mulder rattled off the display, causing a gasp of surprise to come over the radio. "What?" "There's nothing out there that can take an aircraft even remotely close to your size. Not the direction you're headed. Damn. You'll have to take the plane off autopilot and turn around." "Me?" Mulder gulped. "Yes. Feel up to a crash course, if you'll forgive the pun?" Mulder sighed. "Just tell me what to do." "Okay, now, the display in front of the steering wheel. Is it lit?" Mulder leaned forward. "No, it's completely dark." "Damn, I was afraid of that. What about the altimeter? Do you know which one it is?" "Yeah." He read off the altimeter display. "Good, you're still high enough. Okay, the switch cluster right next to it is the autopilot. There should be three of them, labeled L, C, and R. And one of them should be on. The other two are redundant backups." When Mulder answered in the affirmative, the voice went on, "Put one hand on the steering column, then push the switch with the green light to the off position." Mulder did as he was told. The moment the switch was pushed, however, he felt the plane dip alarmingly. He gripped the steering column hard. "The plane's doing a nosedive," he yelled. "Pull back, pull back," the voice screamed in reply. Mulder tried to, but it felt like he'd tear the thing out of its socket before the plane responded. After what felt like an eternity, the plane seemed to level off. "It's working. But I think the damn thing's stuck. I can't get the plane to climb any higher. It's taking all I have just to keep it level." The voice on the other end sighed. "Flip the autopilot back on." Mulder rushed to comply, but he was in for another surprise. "Shit. It's not responding," he yelled. "None of the three will turn back on. What do I do?" "Can you keep the plane level?" the voice asked. "For now. But I don't know for how long." "What about turning? Can you do that? Try turning the wheel from a 10-2 to a 11-3 position," the controller said, indicating the positions in terms the hands on a clock. Mulder gritted his teeth as he gripped the wheel tight. He could hear the metal strain as he tried, but he finally gave up. "It's no go. The thing will tear apart if I try to turn it any harder." "I'm afraid your flight computer is shot, along with your navigation and flight control system." "Umm... what does that mean? In english?" "It means, son, that we don't have any way of turning the plane around or of landing it." "I was afraid you were going to say something like that." "Hang on, son. We'll try to think of something. This is Dulles, over and out." "What the hell was that, Mulder?" Scully's voice rang out as she rushed to his side. "You just about gave Mrs. Hollister a second heart attack." "That, Agent Scully, was your ever so adventurous partner, attempting to fly the plane by his very own self," he replied. "Fat lot of good it did, though," he added in disgust. "That idiot's shot half the electronics in this flying tincan to hell. According to Dulles, there's nowhere we can land, even if we could. The autopilot was working, but now even that's on the fritz. Nothing else seems to be working. The plane doesn't respond to the controls. The radio is so full of static, it's a wonder I can make out anything they say..." "Mulder..." "Yeah, Agent Mulder. Calm down. You're driving me batty." Both agents turned to the new voice. Reicher shuffled himself until he could lean against the far wall, his head tilting up to look at them, his hands still tied behind his back. "You had to go and shoot me, didn't you? Do you have any idea how much that hurts?" "I'm sure Captain Davies knows that up close and personal," Mulder shot back. "Do you know how to fly this plane?" "Maybe." "We can't trust him to fly us, Mulder. He'd crash us into the ocean at the first opportunity." "I know, I know," Mulder sighed, then turned back to Reicher. "Why kill Simon?" The immortal shrugged. "He wasn't following orders. I told him to shoot the pilot. He wouldn't. It was like he was a robot or something. Kept repeating, 'Don't follow orders,' or something like that, over and over." He shook his head. "Weird." Mulder smiled silently. "And exactly how did you know where the Tear would be?" He allowed the chuckle to surface at the terrorist's surprised expression. "I know about the expedition, and I found the case next to the parachute." Reicher let his shoulders slump. "I was on the dig. I found some hieroglyphics in one of the side chambers. None of the others could decipher them accurately..." "... but you could," Mulder finished for him. "It was child's play," he shrugged. "The language was a simple variant of the local dialect of the time." He looked back up at the agents, his eyes lighting up. "You'll never guess where they hid the Tear. According to the legends surrounding it, the priest was supposed to channel his lifeblood, using his heart to pump it through the Tear to activate it. The others found a secret compartment in the sarcophagus, right above the mummy's heart. There were a few trinkets in there. But the Tear itself was embalmed right along with the priest." Scully gasped as his meaning became clear. "You mean..." "It was inside the mummy itself, wasn't it?" Mulder asked, his query confirmed by the other's nod. "Let me go. We can share the proceeds from that artifact three ways. That case alone could set you both up for over ten lifetimes. What do you say?" "Sorry. No can do," Mulder replied. "Now, you were using your GPS module to get to the correct coordinates to jump off the plane, weren't you? What, do you have a boat waiting for you?" The terrorist's silence was answer enough. "How big is it? Enough to hold all of us." Mulder saw the other smile at that. "Damn, not enough. What were you planning for the rest of us? Blowing us up by remote control?" "If the plane exploded, then no one comes looking for you, right? Meanwhile we couldn't fly ourselves out of trouble, even if we wanted to," Scully observed, looking around the cabin as she took in the shattered instrument panels. "Those idiots deserved it," Reicher cried out. "My fellow conspirators wouldn't know a good terrorist plot if it came and bit them on their asses. They served their purpose. I didn't want to bother them with trivialities." "Your loyalty is touching," Mulder replied. "Mulder...?" The familiar voice came from within his headset. Mulder shot up in his seat. "Sir?" He looked to his partner, mouthing silently, "Skinner." "Jeez, Mulder. Can't you even take a vacation without it turning into a fiasco?" the voice of their former superior filtered through the radio. Mulder grinned. "But where's the fun in that, sir?" He chuckled. "It's good to hear your voice, Skinner. It's been a while." "You're talking to the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mulder. Show a little respect." "Always, sir." "Smartass. Ok listen up. Look out your port window. See anything?" The agent obligingly turned his head, his jaw dropping at the sight. Matching their course, just off their port wingtip, a military airplane kept pace with them. "The waters are too dangerous to let the passengers try parachuting off, Mulder. And trying to make a water landing out there would be suicide. This was the best we could come up with on such short notice. We need you to get someone to blow your forward door. The men on the SK-84 will shoot a wire through the door, so keep the area clear. A marine will come on board to give you further instructions. Is that clear?" "I saw Air Force One also, sir. Yeah, it's clear." He turned to his partner. "Well, Agent Scully, it looks like we're about to be rescued." He relayed Skinner's message, then watched as she headed back down. With the help of the flight attendants, she got the area cleared of passengers and the front door open. She almost gasped at the sudden rush of air before moving back a safe distance. A few minutes later, she saw the bolt shoot through and embed itself in the opposite wall. Within moments, a man slid down the wire from the military plane to the cabin. "Lieutenant Palmer, United States Marine Corps. You are Agent Dana Scully?" he shouted over the sound of the rushing air. When Scully nodded, the marine unharnessed himself from the wire, then checked to make sure it was secure. He moved toward the agent and the flight attendants. "We're going to move the passengers to the esskay, one by one. We need for them to put on their life vests at this time. We'll attach the vests themselves to the cable." The attendants nodded, then went off to prepare the passengers. The marine proceeded to pull out eight steel links. "These are for the terrorists. Keep 'em secure while we move 'em." Scully pointed to the back of the plane. "They're back there. Their boss is in the cockpit. My partner is up front also, trying to keep us in the air." ----------------------------------------------------------------- It was past dusk before all the passengers were moved to the other plane. The pilot had gone first, carried across by another marine. There were moments when several people had to get over their fear, but one by one, each of them made it across to the open cargo door on their rescue aircraft. Palmer was surprised at the quiescent manner in which the terrorists let themselves be moved. Scully simply grinned at that. From experience, she knew that the implanted suggestions would wear off in a day or so, and that the authorities would have on their hands six pretty pissed off terrorists. Finally it was just the agents, Reicher, and Palmer left, when they felt it. The plane started to shake as it dipped slightly. Palmer and Scully glanced at each other, then rushed to the cockpit. Mulder still had on the headset, and was frantically shouting to Skinner. "It looks like he did something to the fuel lines when he shot up the place. We've been losing fuel a little at a time. We must be almost out." Scully turned to face her partner, her eyes wide with fear. "The fuel gauge..." "It's not working. Just like all the other stuff." "Damn. Well, lets get out of here. It's just us four left." Palmer knelt beside the immortal, pulling him to his feet. He pulled his hands free of the wire, moving them up front and attaching the cable link. He then slid into the copilot's chair, grasping the steering column. He turned to the agents. "You'd better put on your vests. Then put that guy on the wire and get yourselves off this plane. I'll follow as soon as you get off." "I don't think so," Mulder replied. "I don't think you can keep us level." "I think I know how to do my job, Agent Mulder," Palmer bit back. He pulled back on the controls. "Just let go slowly." Mulder eased his grip on the controls, letting Palmer take over. "Jesus Christ," Palmer whispered at the force with which the controls jerked him forward. The plane gave a corresponding jerk forward and down before Mulder pulled back on the controls. He was right. There was some sort of obstruction in the control system. It was taking all of Mulder's considerable strength just to keep them level. Palmer had no chance of duplicating that, and Mulder saw the marine grudgingly acknowledge the fact. He gestured to the others, herding them to the main cabin. He hooked himself to the line, then motioned for Scully to help him attach Reicher in front of him. Before either of the two could blink, Reicher turned, slamming a shoulder into the agent, tossing her to the floor. He lunged forward, colliding with the marine, causing him to lose his balance and fall out the open door. Moving past the door, Reicher reached into the seat just behind it, his still bound hands reaching into the coats he'd spotted there. Scully watched with a sinking feeling as he pulled out Mulder's sword, and turned to face her. The feral grin on his face caused her to take a step back, stumbling as she did so. She knew, even as she tried to regain her balance, that Reicher was charging at her, the longsword in his hand swinging at her head. She dived to the side, crawling through the galley and into the other aisle, trying to reach her sword from behind. She stood, looking across the seats at their coats. Glancing around, she didn't see Reicher anywhere. Taking a breath, she darted forward, her hand reaching out. She'd almost reached it when she instinctively jerked back her hand. The sword whistled through the air where her hand had been scant seconds earlier. She ducked back, then lunged past Reicher, coming up next to the open door again. Mulder saw Palmer's silhouette thrashing about as it swung down the cable. Puzzled, he let go of the controls, grabbing his vest and rushing out of the cockpit. He froze at the sight when he reached the exit. "SCULLY!! Down!" Without a moment's thought, acting purely on trust and instinct, Dana Scully fell to her knees. She could feel the rush of air as the blade whistled scant centimetres above her head. What she couldn't see, however, was the result of the movement. Mulder saw the sword swing in a wide arc, ending just past the cable. Unfortunately, while traveling through this arc, it had also cut across the path of the cable itself. Literally. With a sharp twang, the blade severed the thin steel cable. The shorter end inside the plane jumped, hitting the far wall across from the door. The other end, however, whipped through the air, coiling and curling about itself, and about whatever happened to be in its way. Like the head of one Karl Reicher, terrorist and would-be thief of Egyptian artifacts. Scully fell to the floor, her eyes locked on Mulder's. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as she realized what had happened. She heard the thud as Reicher's body, no longer attached to his head, fell to the floor, followed by the second thud of the head joining the rest of him. She saw Mulder's eyes widen in recognition of what was about to happen. Time slowed, stopped, then seemed to kick into fast forward. Everything seemed to happen at once. Mulder leapt into the galley, even as he felt the plane begin its nosedive into the dark blue waters below. He also felt the faint prickling of his skin as the inevitable began. The unmistakable odor of burnt ozone permeated the cabin as the first tendrils of energy came forth. They licked at the cabin walls, running like rivers across the metal. Blue lightning flared, burning out the cabin lights, yet lighting up the interior of the aircraft in an unearthly glow. And on the floor, one Dana Katherine Scully jerked and shuddered as life energy from the dead immortal flowed into her. Each jolt evoked a silent cry from her throat, already raw from screaming. Confined as it was inside the hollow conducting shell of the airplane, it seemed almost twice as intense as any other quickening she'd had since she'd become immortal. Her body was racked with the terrible pain, the horrible pleasure, as the energy coursed through her. Within the plane, the lightning flung seats and the contents of the overhead compartments aside like they were feathers. Unseen, several rows back, underneath four separate seats, the lightning ran across certain metal panels, flowing over, under and inside them. The energy hit the devices Reicher had referred to as sparkers, the little boxes instantly crumbling under the onslaught. Also caught in the quickening's fury, the fuel lines ruptured. What fuel was left quickly caught on fire, the flames running like lines of molten lava along the path of the fuel systems. As node after node ruptured, the flames reached the center of the aircraft. Like a model filmed in slow motion, the seams along the center of the plane were the first to go. The entire forward section tilted forward and down, the rear trying to stay its original course. The hull of the aircraft split in two moments before the flames consumed it. The passengers and crew on the SK- 84 watched open-mouthed as window after window exploded outwards, showering millions of shards of transparent material onto the ocean below. With a mighty roar, the engines burst in a tremendous explosion, the rest of the plane soon following. With a series of consecutive explosions, the 747 slowly plunged down into the inky darkness of the waters below. Luckily there was no one left alive onboard to go down with it. ----------------------------------------------------------------- When she woke up, she felt herself being carried in a pair of strong arms. She also felt the wind in her face, the air slightly salty, letting her know instantly that they were near water. "You can put me down now, Mulder. I think I can stand on my own feet." She heard him chuckle softly, his grip tightening slightly. "I wouldn't advise doing that, Agent Scully. Not unless you want to take a long jump off a short pair of hands." "Mulder?" she ventured questioningly. Her eyes finally coming to focus on her lover's face. "Where are we? It's so dark. And I can't see the stars. Why are you carrying me? I told you, I feel fine." She saw him look at something in the distance, then turn to look down at her. "You don't remember?" "Where's the plane? The last thing I remember..." Her eyes widened. "Ohmigod. Reicher... The quickening." "I see it's starting to come back. What else?" "Mulder? Where's... What... How did we get off the plane, Mulder? And why the hell are you still carrying me?" "Quickenings and airplanes do not a good marriage make, Scully. Damn 747s. Although I must say, that was one spectacular explosion. Better than many I've seen in movies." He smiled. "And, as for your other question, have you seen the ground recently?" "The ground?" Scully asked, confused. She craned her neck, looking past her shoulder and below. Her eyes widened. She quickly turned back, her hands going around Mulder's neck in a vice like death grip. "M... Mul... Mulder. We're..." "Flying, Scully? You can say it, you know. I won't drop you." "Oh god, Mulder." She couldn't stop her teeth from chattering from the sudden fear coursing through her. She knew it was irrational, but damn it, she couldn't see the ground. And she couldn't see the stars. And just knowing that she was probably a few hundred feet above the ground sent what was left of her meager airport lunch churning in her stomach. "Relax, Scully. I've got you. And I'm not about to let go." "Mulder, how...?" "Well, you remember the quickening part. And let me tell you that was no picnic. I got a couple of those jolts too when I ran forward to grab you. I just had enough time to do that, grab our coats and swords, head for the rear exit, and jump out before the plane blew. Good thing it was already dark. I don't think anyone saw us, especially since we came out the back on the other side." Scully suddenly noticed that she was wrapped up in her coat, just like Mulder was. She released one hand from around his neck, reaching inside her coat until she came across the familiar shape of her sword. Her hand also brushed against the hard shape slung against Mulder's side. Her eyes raised up questioningly. Mulder saw the movements and chuckled again. "I didn't want to leave it there," he shrugged, moving his shoulder to adjust the strap of the artifact case he'd picked up while making their hasty exit from the aircraft. His partner simply shook her head, grinning wryly. "I can't see the stars, Mulder. Where are we?" Now his expression grew more sheepish. "Well, after the plane blew up, I tried to follow the other plane, but they kinda whizzed off before I could. And to top it all off, this fog just rolled in, and I think I've been flying in circles the last hour or so. I finally decided to just stay in one place and wait for you to wake up. As far as I can tell, we're still above water. I almost sank us both when I tried to find out how high we were." He paused, thinking. "Scully, your dad was a sailor, so you shouldn't have any problem navigating by the stars, right?" "Exactly Mulder. My father. Not me." She sighed. "Why don't you try flying up? I have to actually see the stars before I can navigate by them." "As milady commands," Mulder quipped, rising through the murky air. They rose for what seemed to them an eternity, until finally, they burst through the fog. The sudden clarity in the air shocked them, the stars above their head twinkling in the night sky. Scully pointed at one particular star. "That one, Mulder, the bright one. That's the North Star. So I guess that's north. And we want to go east... no, west, towards DC, right? So turn, ummm... left. No, a little more, Mulder... Ok there, that's good. Now just keep flying straight. And be sure to keep that star just over your right shoulder. Hopefully, we should hit New York or somewhere else on the east coast pretty soon." "Sounds good to me, madam captain, sir, ma'am." "Oh, just shut up and fly, Mulder." "Have I told you how much I love you when you're irritated, Scully? Your eyebrows pinch together just so, you have this cute habit of biting your lower lip..." "I'm not irritated, Mulder. Are you sure you're not getting tired or delirious? Maybe I'm too heavy, and since you've been carrying me for so long..." "Oh I'm not carrying you, Scully." "What!?" "I said, I'm not carrying you. You're flying, Scully. I'm not supporting your weight at all. See?" He pulled his arms out from under her, her grip on his neck tightening in return. Amazingly, as he'd said, she didn't feel any different. She still felt weightless, supported, as if from below. She wondered if this was what Mulder felt every time he flew. No wonder he loved it. She could feel her fear slowly evaporating. She couldn't even find the words to describe it. Unlike flying inside an aircraft, it gave her a sense of exhilaration, of freedom, of total independence, making her regret the years she'd spent not relishing this activity with him. She vowed to make up for lost time. 'As soon as we get home. Meanwhile...' She tried to pull away from him, letting her hands loosen from around his neck. Almost immediately, she felt her weight come crashing back. It was like trying to get out of a pool after swimming for a few hours. Her muscles felt leaden, weighted down by gravity. She automatically tightened her grip around him, simultaneously feeling his arms encircle her again. "Whoa there, Scully. Not too far. You can't really fly on your own, you know." "Mulder, do you know what this means?" "Yeah. If you try to fly like an eagle, you're gonna end up swimming like a fish," he quipped. "No. I mean, about your flying ability. I used to think it was some sort of magnetic field or something. That you were using some sort of magnetic levitation to fly." "What, like the maglev trains?" "Exactly. But I don't think that's the case. That wouldn't explain why I became lighter as well." Her voice lowered into an excited whisper. "Mulder, I think it's a gravitational field." "And...?" "Mulder," she hissed exasperatedly. "An artificial gravitational field. Something that the greatest minds of our century staunchly refuse to admit exists. Actual gravitons, imagine... If I could set up some test... mmmmfffff... Mul..." "Scully, you talk entirely too much. Test me later. You can also poke and prod me later." He kissed her again. "Or maybe we can poke and prod each other now, and be the first people to join the real mile high club." "I'm sure somewhere Arthur Dent is crying his heart out, Mulder," she responded wryly. "Oh, all right," she said, giving up, "I suppose all that can wait till we get home. Now, where were we..." She reached up to brush her lips against his. "Umm... Scully, about that...," Mulder began, pulling back. "What... Mulder...," she said, her voice rising at his sudden change in attitude. "You're starting to piss me off." "Uh... sorry, but I don't think we can go home." "What? Why not?" "Because, over 50 people saw us getting blown up in that plane back there." "Oh." Her eyes widened as the implications sank in. "Oh." "Yeah, a big fat Oh. So what do you say, we get hitched, sow our seeds down in Texas somewhere, and have ourselves a good ol' fashioned hoe down? Start life over, whaddya say, cowgirl?" "Mulder... you can't be serious." "Scully, serious is my middle name. We're now officially dead. We cannot go home. Besides we already discussed this. Even Lynn agreed. We'd have had to leave the Bureau within the next year or so, anyway. We couldn't have asked for a better exit from our current identities." He paused, his voice lowering. "Scully, we've done most of what we set out to do. We found Samantha, in a manner of speaking. We got the answers to the question of what happened to you. We got justice for your sister, for Emily, for my father. We pretty much exposed the consortium, and what's left of them don't dare show their faces to the light of day." He smiled, leaning down to kiss her again, deeper this time. "It's been a heck of a ride, Scully, but it's time." "Besides, third time's the charm, right? Let me move that ring to your other hand, Scully. Marry me. Marry me, and I'll give you the stars..." ----------------------------------------------------------------- Present Day ... give you the stars... Mulder came awake with a start. The stars almost twinkled, just like they did in his memories. He remembered the wedding, the happy times they shared, the sad times. He remembered the wars, the peace, the birth of the new future. The last three centuries rushed through his memory, a blur as they passed, until the most recent one of Scully came to mind. He remembered it like it was yesterday. Neelix walking down, smiling as he handed him the PADD. The message from the Hirogen array. One among numerous others, yet precious in and of itself. He'd taken it with trembling hands, thumbing it on, scarcely able to let himself believe. He'd read the first words, and almost cried. "To: Lt. Mark Renard Hey, it's me. I got your message. You know I actually remembered that phone call of yours." He could almost hear her snort right when she got to writing this part. "I tried to tell Starfleet you were all still alive. But aside from Lynn, no one would believe me. I mean, who would, right? I couldn't exactly show them any proof, if you know what I mean." A sigh right about here. "What am I going to do with you? Four years. Four lousy goddamn years. You know I'm not the type to say, I told you so. But... After all this time, you'd think I'd have something more profound to say, wouldn't you? Well, I can't think of anything more profound than 'I love you', and 'I miss you'. Although, when I see you in a month, I am gonna kick your ass for not listening to me. That's right, I said one month, at the most. I love you M, Yours, S" Scully was coming, and that was enough. He didn't know how, but if anyone could do it, it would be her. He would survive just on the idea alone. He smiled, his eyes crinkling with humor as he remembered. He could almost picture the plane they'd been on. In fact, if he squinted just right, it almost looked like the plane right over... there...? But, waitaminute, it couldn't be, could it? That was it, he was going delusional. He certainly didn't envy Torres and Paris their little jaunt. Not anymore. Not if he was going to go half crazy as a result. The white shape moved closer, becoming clearer. The 747 changed, its lines flowing, reforming into the familiar greys and blues of his beloved Voyager. They were alive! They were okay, and they had come back for him. His beacon had worked! He almost cried out with joy. He would have too, if he'd been able to utter any sound. As it was, he couldn't even find the strength to wave at them. How long had he been out here? He couldn't remember, and at the moment, he couldn't even bring himself to care. All that mattered was getting to Voyager. Why didn't they just beam him aboard? What were they waiting for? An invitation? They were close enough; all they had to do was lock onto his lifesigns, and... He froze. Lifesigns. As his mind slowly came into focus, he realized exactly how far Voyager actually was. And how dark his suit now seemed. All his systems were down. Both in the suit and in his body. He couldn't feel his heartbeat, nor could he feel any air passing through his nose. And he was just starting to realize how cold it was. His suit life support systems must have long since shut down. And if it hadn't been for the airtight seal, the CO2 currently maintaining pressure within his suit would have long since leaked out as well. "Computer..." The voice that emerged, barely a croak, could hardly be recognized as his. No response. Not that he'd expected any. If it *had* been as long as he thought, his suit's power cells would have long since given out. With every remaining ounce of strength, he pushed. He willed, and with a start of pleasure, he saw, he felt his body respond. It was slow, agonizingly so, but Voyager was growing. Getting larger. He was floating closer... closer... ever so close. He must have passed out with the effort, because the next thing he knew, he was feeling the slight tingle of the navigational shields as he passed through them. A few seconds later, he came to rest against the ship's outer hull with a soft thump. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Tom Paris' Quarters USS Voyager Friday, September 20, 2374 1746 hours "B'Elanna! Shouldn't you be in Engineering, nursing your engines or something?" She paused for all of two seconds to consider his statement. She had just spent almost 16 hours non-stop in Engineering, and was reasonably sure that the engines could take care of themselves for the next few hours. So she felt confident enough in saying, "Screw the engines!" 'For now, anyway,' she added silently. "You mean the Engineer, don't you?" Tom moved towards the bed, turning away from her to hide the growing smile on his face. "Pig!" she retorted, her own smile threatening to break out as well. "I see being pregnant hasn't changed your attitude any," Tom quipped, referring to the holodeck experience they'd just gotten away from. He climbed into the bed, bouncing slightly. He lay back, his hands behind his head as he looked at Torres expectantly. He watched as she walked over to the bed, leaned down and grasped his collar. She pulled him up, roughly crushing her mouth to his. He let out a yelp of surprise at the sudden action, leaning back to stare at her almost feral grin. "Well, you know what they say about pregnant women and hormones, don't you Helmboy?" she asked leaning back in. Neither of them noticed the lone figure outside their window, hammering away at the transparisteel. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Outside "Ugh, I so did not want to see that," Mulder muttered to himself. He tried to remember where Tom's quarters were, or were these B'elanna's? He couldn't tell, and he had no desire to go back to take a second look. He decided to keep going forward and up. Wasn't there an entry port or hatch or accessway or something up there? He would go over every inch of this damn ship's schematics as soon as possible, he swore to himself as he floated, crawled, inched, stumbled and fell on his way across the hull. He came across a couple of windows on his trek, but none of them were lit. It would be just his luck if everyone he came across just happened to be on their duty or sleep shifts. It was probably written across his forehead somewhere. Why the hell did they have to make the windows on the outer hull so soundproof? The walls between the quarters themselves were so thin, probably everyone on Deck 9 could hear Tom and B'elanna from Section 12 all the way to Antares. He grunted as he crawled past another dark window. At least his magnetic boots were still working; they didn't require a power source. He silently gave a prayer of thanks to the gods of the Delta Quadrant for small favors. Ah, there it was. The port. Although it wasn't exactly like he remembered it. What the hell! It was too small. It wasn't the port he was looking for. But then... He felt a small rumbling from around the port. Before he could move aside, he was covered in it. Microresidue. Something every starship inevitably generated. Almost every item on a starship was recycled, except for those few exotic materials that simply couldn't be broken down any further. These were vaporized instead, then jettisoned out these chutes. And he, Fox Mulder, after his long, arduous journey, had just had garbage, *garbage*, dumped on him. He would have cried, if he could have spared the tears. Or the strength. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Captain's Quarters USS Voyager 1802 hours "Personal log, stardate 51719.9. Everyday I go off shift seems like one more day one of my crewmembers is floating out there somewhere. He couldn't possibly have survived this long, of course, but we still intend to give his body the kind of burial he deserves. No one deserves a solitary grave like this. I can only imagine how he must have spent his last hours. The distress call from Lt. Renard's subspace beacon was recorded by Voyager's computer almost a week ago. According to Lt. Torres, the range on that beacon was almost 11.4 light years, an impressive feat of engineering in itself. However, at that range, the power drain was probably high enough to burn out Lt. Renard's transmitter within a matter of days. Unfortunately, we didn't even find out about this until yesterday, not until after we'd dealt with our Hirogen problem. We have triangulated his position using the sensor logs to somewhere within this system, and are currently carrying out a search for his body. But given the possible state of his body and his suit systems, I fear this might prove harder than looking for a needle in a haystack the size of Earth." Captain Kathryn Janeway of the USS Voyager moved to her personal replication unit, and quietly ordered a cup of coffee. A luxury, one she knew she'd been overdoing the past couple of days. But just the thought of one of her people, dying like that was enough to give her nightmares. She knew each of Lt. Renard's friends was coping with the information differently. She'd seen both Harry Kim and Leslie Chambers moping in the mess hall every chance they got. Tom and B'elanna, remembering their own adventures in their EVA suits, coped by trying to remember what they loved about each other, by trying to celebrate their life in memory of their colleague. "I have placed a commendation in Lt. Renard's file based on Mr. Chambers and Mr. Kim's reports. He will be... MY GOD!!!" The cup dropped from lifeless hands, shattering as she stumbled back. The dark brown liquid spilled across the carpet as she froze, her mouth agape at the sight. Her hand came up, unconsciously wiping her face, just to make sure she was awake. She stared at the image, still not quite comprehending. Within a few seconds, the captain took command again. "Janeway to Transporter Room One. Beam the individual outside my quarters to Sickbay. NOW!!" "Captain...? Ummm... Sensors don't show anyone in the corridor outside your quarters." "Not out there. Outside my window. Outside Voyager." "Oh. One moment, Captain... Sorry, Captain, but sensors aren't picking up anyone out there either." She blinked. She couldn't be going crazy. Not if she could still ask that question. She pinched herself. Ouch. Nope, definitely not a dream. She took another look at the figure. Yes, it was definitely Lt. Renard. In what looked like a badly damaged EVA suit, slowly banging on the outside of her window. She gulped, entertaining the thought that she might be looking at a ghost. 'Nonsense, Kathy. Get a hold of yourself.' "There is a man in an EVA suit floating outside my window. I believe it is Lt. Renard. Lock onto his lifesigns and beam him to Sickbay," she managed finally. "Uh... Captain?" The reply was starting to get nervous. "I'm not reading any lifesigns outside your quarters. Are you sure you don't mean inside your quarters? I can do a sensor sweep. Is there an intruder onboard?" "No," she snapped, trying to remember who was on duty right now. 'Forget this.' "Janeway to the Bridge. All stop." "Bridge. Kim here. All stop aye." "Harry. Mark Renard is currently floating outside my quarters, hammering away at my window. Would you kindly beam him to Sickbay? Now?" "What...?" "Mr. Kim. Now, please?" "Yes, ma'am." She could almost picture him vaulting the railing, even with his injured leg, as he rushed to Ops to scan for her newest piece of window dressing. She looked back at Renard. He'd stopped banging on the window, now simply content to lay plastered limply against it. She noticed that the left arm of his suit fluttered almost bonelessly, causing her to swallow with fear. And what she could see of his suit didn't exactly fill her with confidence either. She could almost make out his features through the layers of transparent material that separated them. And he seemed exhausted. 'Just a little while longer, Mark. Don't die on me yet,' she promised quietly. "Umm... Captain. I'm not picking up any lifesigns outside Voyager. I did a complete scan for lifeforms, and for any possible transponder or communicator signal, but..." 'Oh, lord, spare me.' "Then lock onto anything that might conceivably be used to construct a goddamn EVA suit and beam everything within it to Sickbay, Ensign." "Yes, ma'am. Scanning. Locking on. Transport in progress..." Kathryn Janeway watched in relief as the ghostly figure outside her window shimmered, twinkled and finally winked out, letting the stars shine through the space he'd occupied. "Sickbay to Captain Janeway." "This is Janeway," she responded. "Did you get him?" "Yes, but..." "Is he alive?" "Uh... I'm not entirely sure, Captain. I'm not picking up any lifesigns. And he's not letting me do any closer scans." "What!!?" She sighed. "I'm on my way, Doctor." She picked up her uniform and started getting dressed. Lt. Renard, it seemed, had a bit of explaining to do. Just another typical day on this side of the galaxy. Only on Voyager, she shook her head ruefully. God, she'd be happy when they all reached home. At least things were *normal* there. The End Futures Past 08: Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This by Arvy ----------------------------------------------------------------- End Notes I have never written so much in one shot before. I mean, there I was, floundering with the story, and suddenly, inspiration just about knocked me to the ground. I'm almost scared to reread this story. I cringe when I think about how well the plot must be hanging together. By a thread, I imagine. And if the characters seem a little off, sorry, but I think my sleep deprived delirium was probably starting to rub off on them near the end. Anyway, like I said in Phoenix, here's my Startrek crossover. Finally, a foray into my second favorite fandom! I've read quite a bit of it, but this is my first serious, albeit half awake, attempt at it. I hope it came across well. Now, I've always wondered how the Hirogen could have overpowered Voyager. Granted, there were more than a few of them against one lone ship, but they had to have taken Voyager by surprise. So here's my explanation for that and a possible reason why Harry Kim wasn't drafted into the simulations. I know, I know, the inevitable questions. Okay, timeline wise, this story should probably be about part 10 or so. There are at least three other stories I have in mind set before this one. I just wanted to do a preview of what's gonna happen, put the setting in place, so to speak. Now you know that Mulder's on Voyager. Don't worry, I actually do have a reason in mind for getting him onboard ;) But that's not for another couple of stories. The next story will probably be a more direct sequel to Phoenix; that last line from the consortium member just kept nagging at me. It'll also probably be a crossover with ST:TNG, I think. As for Lynn, I'll introduce her in the next story. And, regarding Scully, I do have a plan for getting her to Voyager. It's just not going to happen for a bit. I first have to catch up to the time this story is set in before I go beyond. That will actually be a minor part of another story, involving Spock and a joint mission of some kind, I think, and maybe something about Kirk's family? I'm not sure yet. And yeah, I'll also explain just what exactly Scully is talking about in her letter. I left it as I did on purpose. Blame Xaz ;) And to finish up, feedback, please. I'd love some. As always, the address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Later... Futures Past Chronology: 01 - The Awakening (Oct 1997) 02 - The Light of Day (Jan 1998) 03 - My Funny Valentine (Feb 1998) 04 - Crossover (Feb 1998) 05 - Flying Lessons (Feb 1998) 06 - Hazel + Gold = Green (Mar 1998) 07 - Phoenix (May 1998) 08 - Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This (Dec 2010, Sep 2374)