The sun came up just as it always had. It shined off of the Huron in the
east and lit the sky in the rosy hues and gradual splendor of eons past.
The Earth warmed slowly as its fiery fingers spread throughout the land.
But in a lonely camp on the shores of the great lake, the long faces and
grim spirit of the camp could not be warmed by the rays of the sun.
Invictus looked up to the rest of the party as he put the last rock over
Dice's grave. They were crowded round the small pile of rocks they had
managed to collect with a cross they had put together at the head. The only
person not immediately present was Alan Shirilla, whom they had tackled
into submission, who was now tied to a tree back at the camp.
Invictus had spoken over his friend, and stood at the grave in silence a
moment as the rest of the party turned and slowly made their way back to
camp. Mulder stood by and waited.
When finally Invictus turned away from his friend, he didn't turn around
"I'm sorry," Mulder said, as they wound their way through the trees
following the others. "I don't know what else to say."
Invictus, his face still downtrodden simply said, "I don't think there's
anything *to* say. Enough people have died already, this one more only adds
another log to the fire. We have to get that vaccine now, Mulder, if not
for the millions who are dead already, for Dice. I owe him that much. *We*
owe him that much."
Mulder nodded and they made their way back into the camp where everyone
else was silently putting out the fire, and feeding and taking care of the
horses. Even Shirilla was quiet, moping where sat by the tree, seeming to
finally come to terms with the fact that his own paranoia and power complex
had driven him to kill a man. The horses were also silent, sensing the mood
of the camp, they snickered quietly to each other and gently nosed anyone
who walked by.
"So," said Cass as she took one of the bridles off of the branch they were
hanging off of, "what now?"
Mulder sighed. "I don't know. Do you think Plinket will have the boat
"I don't think so," she said. "He said he'd have it there by sundown."
"We may not have that long." Everyone looked over to Shirilla who hadn't
spoken in hours.
Baxter, still irritated with the man, took a step closer to him. "What are
you talking about, Alan?"
"I'm saying that they're probably going to find us soon. The Island is
small, and they can cover a lot of ground. I'm saying if Tom doesn't get
here soon, he may not like what he finds when he *does* get here."
"I'm afraid he's right," Jessica spoke up, "as much as I hate to admit it."
Everyone was silent for a moment. Then Invictus spoke.
"I think so too, but we don't have a choice. I say we saddle up the horses
just in case we need to make a break for it, and send a person to the shore
every hour until he gets here."
Everyone agreed to this, and they went about getting the horses ready and
their stuff together.
Mulder sat down at the edge of the camp when he was finished and ruminated
He cursed his memory, or lack thereof, and concentrated on trying to
remember until his eyes hurt. Pretty much the last 10 years or so of his
life were inaccessible. It was almost as if there was a wall up in his mind
that he could not penetrate that was blocking the memories from his view.
His photographic memories were there, but someone had put the lens cover
He leaned his head back against the tree and looked to the sky through the
canopy of orange, yellow and red. Clear and blue, as it had always been,
but no longer familiar. It was no longer the sphere that protected the
world, but a shield that was easily torn, and behind it, untold beings and
civilizations that had no agenda other than to destroy and conquer. It was
a terrifying thought-that aside from a weak vaccine that could possibly
protect them from the effects of only one of their weapons, they were
absolutely helpless to stop their own annihilation.
Invictus interrupted his macabre musings by plunking down next to him.
"You know," Mulder said to him without looking up, "I don't think so much
of your ideas."
"Well, Mulder, the farther we get into this. I don't think so much of my
ideas either. In fact, I didn't think it was physically possible, but this
both sucks *and* blows."
"Really?" Mulder asked sarcastically. "Which part?"
"I'm trying to decide between the part about having the survival of the
human race depending solely on us, and the part about riding horses. I
don't about you, but my ass HURTS."
Mulder chuckled quietly to himself.
"Been sitting here plotting my demise?"
"As good as that sounds, I'm actually just sitting here trying to
remember," Mulder answered.
"That's funny," Invictus said, "I'm trying to forget."
Mulder simply nodded and closed his eyes again.
"How *did* you get by the memory wipe, if you don't mind sharing your
professional secrets with the likes of me," Mulder asked.
"If I tell you, I have to kill you," he answered. "But then, we'll
probably die anyway, so I might as well let the cat out of the bag."
"I appreciate your honesty and optimism," Mulder said sardonically.
"My pleasure," Invictus smiled at him. "It wasn't really all that complex.
A shot in the dark, actually. I used a thumb tack."
Mulder's confused look spurred him to explain.
"See, I saw on TV one time how this guy beat a polygraph test by putting a
thumb tack in his shoe and stepping on it the whole time. It throws off
your nerves and distracts your mind no matter how hard you concentrate on
the questions. So, I employed the same principle to the memory wipe, and it
worked. Don't ask me how, but it did."
"Unfortunately," he looked to Mulder, "I think you have to do it at the
time of the wipe. I don't think it'll work for you. Of course, I could ram
a needle into your big toe and see if your memories all come flooding back,
but I don't know if you're willing to risk it."
"I think I'll pass," Mulder said, and crossed his arms at his chest.
"Pity," Invictus answered, then surveyed their outlying camp.
"What do you think we should do with Shirilla," he asked after a few
moments. "We can't very well leave him tied to that tree."
"Pity," Mulder said in return.
At Invictus' chuckle, he went on. "I suppose we'll have to take him with
us. We can't leave him with Plinket and the others, I wouldn't wish that on
"True, and I'd just as soon be able to watch him with my own eyes as know
that he could sabotage the other group and fuck us *all* over."
"You don't suppose he might fall overboard while we're at sea, do you?"
"Well, anything can happen, Mulder," Invictus said, standing up, "and
With that, he winked and walked down the bluff toward the arch to check the
coast for Plinket.
The boat finally rounded the coast and cruised silently into Arch Cove just
before sunset. It first appeared through the massive rock arch that the
cove was named for with the setting sun behind it as a backdrop. Steven
Spielberg couldn't have devised a more perfect composition.
But beauty aside, the camp was almost in a panic by the time the boat came.
Most of the party worried that Plinket had been caught and would never make
it, the horses were getting antsy and spooked, and twice Mulder thought he
heard the roar of an engine.
By the time they had Mulder, Invictus, Cassidy, John and Alan Shirilla on
board, and Tom Plinket was getting into the dinghy to depart, the sun had
been down for some time.
Cassidy sat down in the small capsule and rowed him to shore. The dinghy on
her boat had a small motor, but they weren't willing to risk getting caught
by the noise it made.
As he got out of the boat, he assured her that he'd take care of her horses
and the rest of the group and that they'd meet up in Madison. They weren't
sure where or when, or even how, but the resistance had always had a strong
network, and if worse came to worse, they'd use it.
The remaining members of the resistance waited on shore and watched in the
dim moonlight as Cassidy rowed back to her boat and slowly, silently,
The boat was a large one that she'd inherited from her father. A 52 foot
double-masted Beneteau, that he'd named the Prometheus Unbound. He'd died
just before colonization had begun and this was the first sail on the
vessel that Cass would make without him.
Once out of Arch Cove, they had all gathered down below around the
navigation table, and Cassidy had proceeded to pull out her cache of
nautical maps. They had set the sails just tight enough to get away from
the Island by daybreak, but not tight enough to set any specific course.
They had to pick one first.
"The way I see it," Cassidy said, as she spread out the maps before her,
the rest of the group crowding around her, "we have two choices."
"We head north and sail along the coast of the U.P. until we hit Wisconsin,
from there, we travel by land down to Madison. Or, we head southwest right
now, hit Beaver Island for supplies, then North and South Fox Island, then
the Manitou Islands, and cross Lake Michigan in one shot. The first option
is a lot safer, but it will take a lot longer. The second should get us
there much faster, but is highly dangerous. Especially with an
inexperienced crew this time of year."
She looked up at the rest of the men and looked at each one in turn. "What
do you guys want to do?"
"I say we go for the U.P.," Alan mumbled quietly. He knew no one really
wanted to hear his opinion, but he voiced it anyway. His consideration no
longer carried any weight.
Much to his surprise, they looked at him and nodded.
Invictus spoke next.
"I can see the points of both. And I know how rough these waters can get,
especially this time of year. It's going to be a tough trip either way, but
the clock is running."
"I agree," Baxter piped in, "about time, I mean. If we don't get there soon
and *do* something, we, and a lot of other people are going to be dead no
matter what. I say we go for the fastest way and just pray we get there in
time. Cass, you and I know boats. They'll catch on quickly. I say we head
for the Islands and head for them now."
At that point, everyone looked to Mulder.
"You're looking to a man who has no memory and who at this moment is
feeling slightly sea sick to make your decision for you?"
They continued to look at him.
"Yes," Cass finally said. "The memories may be absent, Mulder, but the
instinct's still there. What do you think we should do?"
"I agree with John," he finally submitted. "I say we take the most direct
route. The sooner I'm off this boat, the better."
"Then it's settled. I'll plot the course, then John and I can get us going.
Why don't you guys try to get some sleep."
She pointed in the direction of the aft bunks and sat down to work. "The
head is on your left," she said as afterthought.
"The what?" Mulder asked as he made his way astern.
"The john," she said, looking up from her map. "It's right there."
The three men nodded and settled in for the night. The gentle rocking of
the boat had them asleep almost before they could lay down.
Days past, and they sailed on without too much trouble.
It was near sunset on their third day when they sailed past the second
island they would visit. The wind had remained strong and steady and
propelled them at a speed that gave them a small amount of comfort. Every
island they had yet visited had been abandoned, and when they saw no sign
of pursuit, they began to relax.
Cass joined Mulder on the fore deck and watched out over the water with him
silently. Dark blue and gray clouds had started to form on the horizon, and
she eyed them warily.
"Looks like a storm might be moving in," she said. "I think we'd better
head right for South Fox Island and see if we can harbor there tonight.
Sailing on the Great Lakes in November isn't the safest thing anyone's ever
They had considered skipping over the small island and on toward the
Manitou Islands, as they had just left North Fox Island the day before. She
said this more to herself than to Mulder who basically did what they told
him to. Which generally encompassed ducking when they came about, and
occasionally cranking the winch. Mostly, he just tried to stay out of
everyone else's way. Only Alan Shirilla seemed to be as much of a layman as
he, which surprised Mulder for a man who had grown up on a small island.
But then, Mulder mused, he himself had grown up on an island and knew even
less about all things nautical.
She headed back for the stern and left Mulder watching out over the water.
He'd spent the past days in a constant state of concentration, and he'd
finally given up on the prospect of ever remembering what he'd lost.
He accepted it and moved on. He had no other choice.
A gust of strong wind hit him from behind without warning and he fell
forward, catching himself on the sail cables in front of him. A large swell
followed the wind and slammed into the side of the boat, pitching the
vessel off to the port side and causing Mulder to lurch forward again. He
grabbed the safety wires along the starboard side of the boat and made his
way down to the cabin.
The clouds rushed in over the boat in force and the wind blew harder. The
surf picked up in intensity as well and surged around them. Cass was on her
way up onto the deck when Mulder reached the cabin door.
"Get down below," she shouted above the building howling of the wind, "and
wake up John if he isn't already and tell him to get the hell up here!
Secure the cabinets below and get out the life jackets!"
Mulder nodded and allowed her to pass before he nearly slid down the few
stairs and into the cabin. John Baxter was stumbling out of the bunks in
the bow when Mulder looked up.
"Squall?" he asked. Mulder nodded and John swore in a low tone as he
brushed by Mulder and up onto deck.
Invictus and Alan were battening down the stern ports and cabinets so
Mulder went for the life preservers. He grabbed one and slipped it on then
went astern and threw two at the other two men as he braced himself against
the walls around him for balance. The boat pitched suddenly to the
starboard and Mulder fell hard on his knee.
He cussed to himself as he made his way for the stairs. He threw the two
remaining preservers over his arm and stumbled up onto deck. Cass was at
the helm, struggling with the wheel as the rain began to pour down on the
Prometheus Unbound unabashedly. Mulder stumbled to her and handed her a
life vest. She threw it on, and as he made to grab the wheel to help her,
she shook her head violently and pointed toward the bow.
He followed her gaze and saw John struggling with a loose line that had
whipped free. He was struggling to pull down the jib, but the line had
gotten caught high up in the sail and he had to free it before the sail
would come down. The wind gusts caught on the still raised sail and pitched
the vessel violently. Mulder saw it and immediately started to make his way
up to help John.
He was halfway there when lightning ripped through the sky above them,
immediately followed by a loud clap of thunder. The blinding flash of light
dazed Mulder momentarily and he fell to the deck. Seconds later, shaking
his head to clear it, he got up and started for John again.
He stumbled and slipped on the wet deck and he grabbed at the mainsail's
boom to keep his balance. He had regained his balance for not a second when
images started flashing in front of his eyes. Fleeting and fast, they
blinded him. He looped his arm around the swinging boom and grabbed at his
skull. Again, lightening ripped across the sky and suddenly, in a torrent,
the images poured out before his eyes.
Flashes of moments suspended in time that were permanently etched, but
recently forgotten, broke loose from his mind. His apartment, his mother in
a hospital bed, cases of one kind or another flashed in his mind in a
Fox Mulder was remembering.
But one memory hit resonance as it flashed in his mind in one form or
another. Bent over an autopsy bay, reaching across a diner table to steal
his food, gun pointed at his chest, he saw her over and over until the
images overwhelmed him and he fell to the deck. Bent over limply on the
wood and fiberglass, images still streaming before his eyes, he threw his
head back, chest exposed to the sky and screamed above the crash of
"SCUUHLLY!" He yelled above the roar of thunder, the whoosh of rain, the
pounding of surf.
His arms flailed out for the life lines along the deck as he slid closer to
the edge. He was helpless to all but the memories returning. He tried to
stand, but could not, and another wave rushed over the side of the boat
filling his mouth and nose with cold, fresh water.
He coughed and held his head in one hand, his other on the lines. The
images started to slow, and in between them, he could see flashes of the
boat and surf before him.
Another image of Scully flashed before him, soft and radiant in the warm
glow of lights in her apartment, and his chest ached with the pain of
heartache and the sting of the cold, pelting rain.
Another image of Scully, and another, too close together for him to process
the image of the huge wave crashing over the side of the ship, sweeping him
over the edge and into the cold, dark, raging waters of Lake Michigan.
Scully and Richter, with Elspeth cradled in his arms, fell back against the
wall of the building from which they had just escaped.
"Fuck!" Richter yelled. "How long were we held in there? It's snowing!"
"I can see that!" Scully shouted back in retort.
"Wasn't it just October?" Richter began a string of curses.
"Calm down. We're in the Midwest. The weather here is always
unpredictable. We couldn't have been in there more than a week . . ." she
trailed off. In actuality, she had no idea how long they had lain,
unconscious inside the lab that burned behind them, but she wasn't about to
look behind. They had to push forward.
Though it was snowing, the roar of the flames from the inferno around them
set off waves of heat that brought on the feeling of a mild summer. Scully
involuntarily shivered contrary to the warmth that radiated from the
burning city. She threw a glance at Richter who seemed just as perplexed as she
was, if not more.
"I'm not sure if I want to know what caused this," he said plaintively,
redistributing Elspeth's weight in his arms. "I have my suspicions though,"
he continued, and then returned his attentions to the rag doll of a woman
who lay in his arms.
"We have to go somewhere," Scully said more to herself than anything. "We
need to keep pushing and get to Wisconsin while we still may have a chance
to," she hesitated and almost laughed at the how absurd the phrase seemed
to her, "to save the world."
She soon recomposed herself though, and they began the cautious walk out of
the fenced-in compound.
"Let's hope their perimeter security is as lax as their internal security,"
Richter mused as they approached the barb wired, and possibly electrified
"No need to worry about an electrified fence. Door's open," Scully said
lamely to Richter as they rounded a corner. She shook her head though, no
with relief, but with the knowledge that beyond this gate there still lay
thousands of barriers, hundreds of detours, and a countless amount of pain
to still come. But she retracted some of her bitterness and an ounce of
the weariness. Though the road ahead was long, there was still hope, and they
would have to cling to that if they wanted to have a chance at doing
"Let's get somewhere warm--hopefully somewhere with food and, God, some
warm clothing," Scully continued tersely. "Let's move fast. I want to check up
on Elspeth as soon as possible." She glanced back. Elspeth was not
looking good, but she kept it to herself. There was no reason to alarm Richter.
They all had enough on their minds right now, and adding to his burden
would only weaken him more, and slow them down on an already long journey.
She had not realized how far Colonization had stretched its merciless arm.
Chicago, once bustling and always alive with life and light, was now akin
to a ghost town. Snow had been falling, but even the pure whiteness of the
landscape could not hide the hideous scarring that had already been done.
Now with the raging flames that engulfed the skyline, the view only
worsened. Snow melted and rivers of soot flooded the streets. Worst of
all, ashes filled the sky and then returned to earth in blackened tears.
It was beyond sorrowful, and it took almost all of what was left of Scully's
strength, not to break down and cry in despair. But she knew she would not
show weakness now. With Elspeth incapacitated and Richter drained and
zombie-like, she was thrust into the lead. She was to be the mind and body
behind their mission. She was to be their logic, their reason; their
pillar of strength. Through all the bleakness, she smiled to herself. She could
do this--she had no choice in the matter--but she could do this. She had
done it before, for someone else . . .
She turned and blinked the snowflakes from her eyes. Richter pressed
Elspeth tighter to his chest.
"We really need to rest, Dana. I don't think," he glanced down, "I don't
know how much longer we can just keep walking in this weather, especially
with her in this condition. And it's not helping us either."
"I know, I'm sorry, but," she said, waving a hand at the crumpled remains
of once mighty buildings, "we'll stop soon. Trust me."
Richter sighed, something that seemed to come from his toes and out the
pursed lips. "I trust you." Scully turned, startled by his sudden
admission. "I'm just worried."
She nodded, but she walked now, a bit astounded. There obviously had been
problems in their small knit group. And obviously some ambivalent emotions
rearing their heads, especially between Richter and Elspeth, but she had
felt that their situation had been pushing them all closer together.
Still, the admittance of his trust seemed akin to someone else vowing a life debt.
Everything seemed to change and shift quickly these days. She peered
through the snow and motioned Richter to come over. Why she still seemed
surprise by the speed of things, she didn't know.
She pointed to a dark spot that stood out against the falling snow and ash.
He turned to her and smiled.
It was a old house, a throwback from the Depression, in the middle of
nowhere. Somehow the effects of the assault on Chicago had not touched it.
It stood next to rubble and remnants of damage, but the important thing
was that it stood.
Elspeth was placed on a couch and Richter went in search of blankets
immediately. Scully walked into the kitchen in search of food. She let no
reaction hit her as she entered and noted the chaos imprinted against each
tile on the floor and each cabinet flung open wide. It was getting dark
outside but a few glimmers of light from sun and fire slanted their way
into the blinds that drooped from each window. She side-stepped a fallen pot
and made her way towards a cabinet. Spying a few items, she pulled them out,
turning the cool metal tins in her hands. Quietly, she rummaged through
the rest of the kitchen but bypassing the refrigerator. This area had been
long without electricity. They had battled quite enough unseemingly things so
far, another adventure into the gleaming-white icebox would be one she'd
rather avoid. Finding six cans of food overall--creamed corn to imitation
ham--Scully placed them onto the wooden kitchen table and sat down, leaning
back tiredly against a wicker-backed chair.
How long days seemed, she thought. And how far the past seemed behind
them. Places and memories of seasons past and of people lost. She heaved a
sigh, one that seemed to be the compilation of all her sighs ever
repressed. Mulder, she mouthed, lost in thought. How long since she had last seen
him? How long had she last felt his nearness and his earnest affection?
She could almost feel the stubble on his face and the smile that would
curve underneath her hands, though this was something she had never dared to do
in real life. It was real because she could imagine it through all this
despair. "Scully," he would say, beaming with a sexual energy and
mischief, "Scully . . ."
Her head bobbed forward and her eyes flitted open. Dreams, she thought
sadly. More dreams clouding her head. Richter peered through the doorway,
his body a dark shape before her eyes. She mumbled incoherently.
She nodded and stood up, shaking her head to clear the cobwebs that had
formed in her mind. She pushed the cans together and left them on the
table. "Elspeth?" she asked without expecting an answer. They walked
into the living room and Scully began to tend to her patient.
Elspeth, fortunately, was amazingly resilient.
"Are you my Prince Charming?" she asked quietly, blinking up into Scully's
concerned face. Her response made her chuckle.
"No," she whispered, "but he's right over here," she said, nodding her head
slightly to where Richter sat slumped and sleeping in an armchair.
"Ahh, good," Elspeth replied contented. "Make sure he doesn't turn into a
frog." She then closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep. Scully stood
up and piled on another blanket on top of Elspeth, watching her burrow her
head of dark hair beneath the warm fleece sheets.
What a peaceful face, Scully thought, her eyes darkening some. She bit her
lip. They would still have to question Elspeth about what had happened.
Diana Fowley's words echoed in her mind. "You mean you don't know yet . . .?
She shuddered involuntarily and swallowed hard. She wanted so much to
trust these two. Right now, it was her second biggest wish. Right after
the wish to see again the face of the only other person she had trusted
Soup. The thought sprang to her head like a bolt of lightening as she
clutched her growling stomach. She recalled the cans of tomato soup still
in the kitchen, but the electric stove also came to mind. A knife could
easily puncture and open the can, but the prospect of cold and salty soup
hit her worse than the hunger.
Richter stirred from sleep. "Dana? I'm sorry," he began, wiping the sleep
from his eyes. "I shouldn't have fallen asleep . . ."
"You need your rest," she simply stated.
"So do you."
Grimly, she smiled. "We also need food, and that's the first thing on my
mind right now."
He forced himself out of the comfortable chair, wobbling, his legs
unsteady. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"No," she began, but her eyes wandered over to the fireplace she had not
seen before. "Damn," she whispered to herself, glad at their good luck.
"Actually, yes. Can you start a fire?"
"Yes, and," he continued pulling something from the coffee table. "The Boy
Scouts taught me well. That and I got these matches."
"Works for me. Break up some chairs or find some logs--we need a fire."
"What's for dinner?" Elspeth murmured, still half-asleep. She rolled over,
oblivious again to her surroundings.
"Tomato soup, but we need some water."
"Nothing's working," Richter frowned. "Electricity's dead. Water and
plumbing, gone." He looked around. Suddenly, his face brightened. "Snow."
"Ash," Scully corrected sadly, but she thought again. "Icicles . . . They
should be pure still!"
"If you want to get them, I'll start the fire."
"Be right back." Scully walked down the hallway and pulled open a closest
that was built into the wall. She pulled out a Chicago Bears winter coat
and pulled it over her head. Marching outside, she moved around the porch
and finally, after jumping a few times, resigned herself to grabbing a
chair from inside to reach the icicles that hung like pure, clear fangs from the
awning. She laid each down on the railing as though they were precious
diamonds. Looking at her good work, she began to gather them into her arms
when she heard the cries for help. She froze. The cries were nearby, but
she was wary and very suspicious. She couldn't help it. Grabbing a snow
shovel that sat abandoned on the porch, she listened for the cries between
the crunching of snow beneath her feet.
The screams for help seemed to be coming from pile of rubble down the
"Who's there?" Scully shot out into the bleak, cold air.
"Help me! I'm over here!" The cries grew stronger, new hope instilled in
each syllable. "Underneath this debris."
She could not leave a person here to die, she thought as she approached the
female voice that yelled. But the thought that it was a trap remained
pinned to her mind as surely as that woman could be laying pinned beneath
the twisted metal beams.
"I'm coming," Scully called out calmly. There seemed to be a sudden gasp, a
pause coming from the direction of the yells. Scully felt herself chilled.
She could not determine if it was the wind or something else that made her
feel this way.
As she turned the corner, there indeed lay a trapped figure in the shadows.
"Agent Scully!" the person cried, half excited, half surprised. "Please!
Help me out!" It almost was a sob, and Scully suddenly could not split her
ambivalent feelings. It would be so easy for her to just walk away.
"Please," the voice called out again, this time almost pleading.
Scully resigned herself. She would not stoop to that level. She was still
human, after all.
"Lay still," she said coolly, crouching down. "I'll get you out in just a
little bit, Diana."