Chapter 15

Mulder watched the two groups leave, Scully still quasi-sitting in his lap.

They sat in silence as their friends footsteps retreated into stillness.

"Scully," Mulder finally whispered, dropping his head to her shoulder.

"I know," she said, looping her arm up to hold the back of his head to her,
"I do."

They stayed that way for minutes, breathing in the essence of one another's
long absent company. Finally, Mulder spoke, his voice muffled somewhat by
it's proximity to her shoulder.

"Do you remember the last time we saw each other?" He asked, and finally
raised his head, searching out her eyes, "because I do."

"I remember, Scully," he went on, "and it's the only moment that I've
*ever* spent with you that I'd rather forget."

She looked at him sympathetically and nodded.

He continued. "After I remembered-after the amnesia-it was the last
moment that I'd had with you. It was the only thing I had to go on, .. I
remember what that was like Scully, and I never want to go through that

Scully closed her eyes for a moment and thought back to the last time she'd
seen Mulder before he'd disappeared and colonization had begun.

They'd had an argument, based on the deep-seated issue of belief-the only
issue, if anything, that had continually kept them apart.

"Is it *so* hard to believe, Scully, is it *that* difficult to open your
mind a *fraction* and accept that it *might* be possible?" He'd asked.

He'd been angry. More upset than normal, too angry for his usual air of
indifference that he'd exude when he was upset. He'd stressed certain
words, and that vein on his left temple had been sticking out.

She'd forgotten the actual subject of the argument. At that point though,
it hadn't really mattered. They were back at square one, where everything
came down to when it concerned them. Belief. Or lack thereof.

"Yes, actually, Mulder," she'd said, "it is."

He'd clenched his jaw and stared at her, daring her to continue. So she

"Mulder," she said, "honestly. The way your mind works transcends the ages.
It's childlike and feeble at the same time."

"What?" he'd nearly spat.

"The things you believe in, Mulder. Concepts easily grasped by children and
old people-because kids haven't yet found reason not to believe, and the
venerable have every reason *to* believe."

She hadn't meant the statement as a derogatory one, but he'd taken it that
way nonetheless.

He'd gotten really upset at that point and had grown very silent. A staring
contest ensued that had been interrupted by the ringing of the phone.

He'd answered it quickly, and after a few short exchanges, he'd hung up,
grabbed his coat and left. But not before he stopped in the doorway and
looked at her with disdain.

"I'm leaving," he'd said.

"I can see that," she'd replied. "Where?"

He'd given her a huff of breath and a smart grin and said, "You wouldn't
believe me if I told you."

And that was the last that she'd seen him.

In the time after his disappearance and the colonization, she'd often
thought back to that day. And the two worlds-one she'd believed in, and the
one in which she now lived-still warred with each other.

Sometimes she'd wondered why he believed in the things he did. Sometimes
she'd wondered why she didn't.

His rumbled words behind her shook her out of her reverie.

"I don't want to go back there again, Scully," he said, giving her middle a
slight squeeze, "ever."

He paused a moment.

"I want things to be different."

She didn't respond at that point. She merely twisted around a little and
grabbed his head in her two hands. She planted a firm kiss on his lips, and
another on his forehead. They looked at one another for a few moments and
she leaned in for another kiss. When she pulled away, his lips tried to

She smiled at him and ran her fingers through the hair on his face.

"Come on," she said, scooting backward a bit and reaching for his hand.
"Help me up."

He obliged and asked, "Where are we going?"

"To the table," she replied. "I need you to help wrap my ankle a little
better, and we have things to talk about."

He paused a moment to take one more reverent eyeful, then stooped to grab
his backpack with the first aid kit in it and finally helped her to the


John, Cass and Richter were making their way back to the room, their senses
somewhat dulled by nearly an hour of no action and fruitless searching.

"Chicago is gone?" Cass asked, her voice somewhat incredulous and louder
than was probably wise.

"Yes," Richter answered. "Nearly all of it as far as I could tell."

They'd been making nice with each other, John and Richter finding that
they'd been in college at the same time and each's school having played the

"Jesus," John said quietly.

"So we've gone from cows to extra-terrestrials. Talk about progress," Cass

She took a few steps and stopped, holding her hand up, indicating to the
other two men to do the same.

John quietly moved up beside her, leaning his mouth in by her ear.

"What is it?" he whispered.

Cass made a walking movement with her fingers then pointed in the direction
of the room, down the hallway.

They were only a couple hundred yards from the door, and had been wondering
how to intrude on Mulder and Scully without causing anyone any undue

After a moment, both John and Richter heard it too, footsteps-but more like
someone running-getting steadily closer.

They nearly didn't have a time to draw their guns before Invictus and
Elspeth tore around the corner at break-neck speed. Invictus pushed off
from the wall as he made the turn, refusing to slow one bit.

"What the.?" Richter said, then all three lowered their weapons and ran
toward the two others only slowing and stopping when they met in front of
their room's entrance.

Mulder and Scully, sitting across from one another at the table, hands
locked together, both looked up, surprised.

Elspeth and Invictus both doubled over, leaning against their knees and the

"What." Cass started, "What happened? Where's Alan?"

"He didn't make it," Elspeth said, looking up between breaths.

"You mean you ran into. but you got away?" Scully said, as she made her way
to the doorway and the others slowly, held nearly all the way up by Mulder.

Invictus nodded.

"So we're going to have company?" Mulder asked gravely.

Invictus nodded again.

"And Alan." Cass hedged.

Invictus finally straightened, "You know how you said his head was usually
so far up his ass that it you were surprised it was still sitting on top of
his shoulders?"

Cass looked at him strangely and nodded.

"Well," Invictus said, "that's no longer going to be a problem."

Elspeth unconsciously wiped at her face and clothes again where Alan's
blood had spattered.

Cass glanced at her and put her hand to the wall to steady herself.

"I think I'm going to be sick," she said.

"No time for that," Invictus said, moving to her and escorting her into the
room, "gather everything together, we need to get out of here."

"Now?" Scully said, glancing at her ankle in worry.

"Yesterday," Invictus answered soberly.


Richter found it by accident.

They'd been walking through the tunnels beneath Madison for hours and had
finally decided to rest when Scully had let out a whimper that she'd been
holding in for hours.

They'd set down their gear at the end of one of the hallways that seemingly
led to no where and hunkered down against the walls, sitting on the floor.
Cass had offered to let Scully put her leg up onto her shoulders to ease
the swelling a little, so Cass sat a little awkwardly on the floor and
Scully put her head in Mulder's lap. He didn't seem to mind.

Everyone else had grabbed something they'd been carrying and used it as a
pillow to take a quick nap. Richter, the only one who couldn't lie down
properly without hurting his arm, instead opted to lean against the wall
with his good shoulder while sitting sideways on his legs.

The position however, was so awkward that when he finally made his way to
the ground, inertia and gravity took over and jammed his good shoulder into
the wall forcefully.

But instead of jarring him, the wall gave in several inches and he nearly
fell the rest of the way into what appeared before them now as an open door
way. He found himself on his back looking up, upside down at a lighted

"Buddy?" He heard Invictus say from the hallway.

He gingerly sat up and faced the rest of the group who hadn't moved from
their prone positions, but were all looking in his direction curiously.

"Stairs," he said, adjusting his makeshift sling a little so that it didn't
dig into his side as much, "I think I found some stairs."

"Can you see where they go?" Mulder asked, putting his arm around Scully's
middle and boosting her up a little bit.

Richter had been irritated with Mulder for no reason ever since they'd
found him, and while he couldn't explain to himself why, he harbored
resentment just the same.

"Up," he said, infusing his words with a biting sarcasm, "they go up."

Mulder ignored it.

Scully didn't.

"Richter?" She edged. "Is your arm bothering you? We do have a couple more

Richter relented and immediately felt a little guilty for snapping. He
twisted his head a little and looked up into the stairway.

"I think it's a. I don't know what is," he said, squinting, "it looks like
a friggin museum."

He turned back to the group.

"The ceiling does, anyway."

Invictus frowned a little and got up, his knees cracking as he stood.

Curiosity got the best of him, and he drew his weapon, moving up the stairs

When he got to the top, he didn't lower his gun, but some of the tension
drained visibly from his shoulders.

"Well I'll be damned." He muttered quietly to himself.


What Richter had discovered wasn't a museum, not in the classical sense,

Scully mused that by today's standards the label wasn't exactly a stretch.

What he'd found, was instead, the general assembly hall of the Wisconsin
State Capitol building.

The tables and chairs that had been used in the general assembly had been
pushed to the sides of the great room, and stacked somewhat neatly along
the walls. There was, in place of those desks, a large collapsible table
strewn with maps, charts, geothermal readouts and various other papers of
the sort.

Upon inspection of the readouts, the group found that they were mostly of
the east coast, and the southern west coast of the United States.

"We've just walked into the middle of enemy camp," Mulder said slack-jawed,
his eyes scanning the room up, down, left, and right.

"Then it's stupid to stay here," Richter concluded. "We don't know if this
place is being monitored, or if someone's going to come back any second and full
us up with some fresh rounds of ammunition. I'm in no mood to stay. I don't
know about the rest of you."

"Time to move the party elsewhere," Invictus agreed. "But where to?"

A strange look crossed Elspeth's face and before she, or anyone else could
say another word, she had hurdled over broken chairs and tables and had
headed towards what appeared to be the governor's seat at the head of the
assembly. She pointed up to the three-paneled mural that stood out prominently against
the wall. "This signifies past, present, and future," she told them, moving her hand
across from each picture to the next. She frowned and muttered something about
symbolism or parallelism and then said, "Though I fail to see where colonization is
being represented, though." Seeing their confused looks, she elaborated. "Learned it on a
campus tour back when I went to school here," she said with a shrug. "Don't ask me who
painted it, though."

Richter was the first one to start after her, the others following suit
after him, but when they were by all up there, they only stood and watched Elspeth as she
pushed and shoved against the oak chair and desk, dropping on her knees and
feeling for something, though none of them knew what. "It's here somewhere," she
muttered, concentrated on her own efforts. A few, futile more seconds elapsed and
she stood up, face twisted in consternation of herself. "I swear . . ." she muttered
and suddenly, stopped in mid-sentence as something out of the corner of her eye caught her
attention. She laughed. "Well I be damned." Reaching back behind a tall, white marble
column, herhand disappeared, and then the rest of her followed.

"Secret passage," Mulder remarked without a hint of surprise.

"Let me guess," Scully said as she hobbled with help, through the
passageway. "This leads to a secret bedroom."

"A governor's gotta have his mistresses too," Invictus said
matter-of-factly. "Can't let the presidents have all the fun."

"No, you certainly can't," Mulder noted wryly. "That's one thing I think
both parties can agree upon."


It turned out that it wasn't a secret bedroom, but the governor's private
office. Wisconsin state memorabilia littered shelves, ranging from Packers autographed
football helmet to a different sort of headgear in the form of a wedge of cheese.

"Charming," John muttered as he stalked the room, surveying it for anything

There was not much of note in the room, but it proved to be the refuge they
needed at the time. Naturally, many of them split up in pairs. Cassidy and John.
Richter and Elspeth, and of course, Mulder and Scully. As each thought of this,
the names--the idea seem to roll off so naturally it seemed as though they had
never parted. Leaning against each other, Mulder especially tender to the injured
Scully, they drifted off into half-thought and half-sleep.

In the meanwhile, Invictus left without someone to act as his "better half"
found company with a bronze statue of a badger, the Wisconsin state animal. Out of one
eye, Mulder noted that his friend was carrying on a rather heated conversation with the
decidedly mute and inanimate badger. He wasn't sure if Invictus was going completely
mad, just bored, or a little bit of both. Or if he knew something the rest of them didn't.
He sighed heavily and turned his attention away from Invictus to Scully who was snuggled
contentedly in the crook of his arm. He brushed away some hair that had fallen in her
eyes and smiled faintly. If things could be like this after all this was over, he swore to
himself then as he gazed at this beautiful woman before him, he resolved that he would do
anything to make it that there *was* an "after" to look forward to.

There was a shift in the stillness of the room, and all eyes rose to lift
towards Invictus who had given up on his conversation with the bronze badger to advance upon
Richter and Elspeth who rested together in the folds of a window curtain.
There was some whispering amongst the three which finally resulted in Richter getting
up to leave the other two to a private conversation.

The dark-haired man, still a mystery even to Scully who had spent
practically every waking moment with him since fleeing Rhode Island, roamed restlessly
around the large room. Scully stirred closer to consciousness in his arms, but
Mulder's attention remained trained on Richter McLachlan. Scully had related to him
as much as she could have about her experiences in the time they had had
together since being reunited, so Mulder knew the bare facts about Richter and
Elspeth Parr. The same went for Scully and her knowledge of Invictus, John,
Cassidy, and Alan.

He was like a lion in a cage, Mulder thought to himself, still watching
Richter pace, and he certainly possessed the fierceness in his face to
match that of the king of the beasts, he amended. It didn't seem so much
nervousness that colored his body language but fear. His eyes constantly
strayed towards Elspeth and Invictus and Mulder could not help but wonder
to the nature of that conversation.

At one point, it was not Elspeth or Invictus' eye that Richter caught, but
rather, it was Mulder's. Mulder gave him a sympathetic smile but got in
return a scowl. He didn't allow himself to think before he acted and the
words just came out of his mouth.

"What?" he spat angrily. Richter, a passive look on his face, began his
way over to where Mulder and Scully sat.

"What?" Richter echoed coolly, using his standing advantage to stare down
disdainfully at Mulder. "What do you think."

"What have I done to wrong you?" Mulder hissed, trying not to disturb
Scully who had drifted back into sleep. "I barely know you. I don't understand
what warrants this hostility towards me. Do you care to explain? Because
I would be really interested in knowing."

Richter shifted his injured arm. He licked his lips, dried and cracked
from over-exposure to the elements. "I understand that this is a group effort," he
began calmly, his voice flat and without any hints of emotion.

"So you don't think I'm doing enough--" Mulder began tersely.

"Let me finish," Richter continued, annoyance flashing in his face. "This
is obviously a group effort, and yes, I am wondering what you have done thus
far, but that's not the issue. I'm . . . curious. I'm curious as to what
you intend on doing, and why," he said with a sweep of his good arm, "why everyone
seems to hold you in this strange reverence. Why they say things like
'he's the one' as though you were some hero out of some bad science-fiction
movie. Tell me, Mulder," letting his name shoot out of his mouth like a bad taste,
"tell me why this is so. Give me a reason to trust you."

"Mulder?" Scully suddenly said sleepily, her eyes blinking open.

"Shh," Mulder soothed, glaring at Richter. "You don't trust me?" he said

"Please," he said irritably, "give me a better answer than that."

"I'm not casting any illusions, Richter. I didn't make them believe
anything about me. They believed these things on their own, with or without me, and even
before they had even met me. I don't claim to understand . . . or maybe I just don't

"That's your excuse?"

"This is ridiculous! Utterly and completely ridiculous. You're a grown
man and this isn't--"

Harsh voices coming from Elspeth and Invictus momentarily distracted both
of them from their argument. Scully also woke up to the noise and watched
with a confused and horrified look all at once. John, who apparently had been
awake for a while and had been doing more checks on the room, also turned his
attention towards the source of the noise. They all watched on. Elspeth
gestured angrily but Invictus did not relent, physically pressing his issue as he
confronted her.

Richter looked torn, unsure whether or not to continue his argument with
Mulder or to go to Elspeth. But it was John Baxter who made the decision for all
of them.

"Shut up!" he growled, his head swiveling left and right and up and down.
His gun immediately appeared and he raised it cautiously. "I heard something,
out in the hallway," he said, pointing his gun towards door that had been flung
ajar by someone else, some time ago. All arguments, disagreements were
immediately dropped and the companions readied themselves and fell in line behind him.

John stood, poised in the doorway, the rest of the group nearly crowded
around him, none really wanting to be left out in the hallway- prone to
attack, and neither really wanting to face the perils of what they were
sure to find in the room.

John, gun raised, scanned the room from left to right. He paused a moment,
and just as Cass opened her mouth to suggest they move forward, they heard
a shuffle from inside the room, and a head and body came up from behind a
counter in the room, facing the other direction and completely oblivious to
their presence.

John waited a moment and then cleared his throat saying, "you move one
inch, and you'll look more like a pincushion than yourself when they bury

The figure froze, his arms at his sides.

"Turn around," John said in a dangerous voice, "slowly."

The man did so, and as he faced the group, Mulder and Scully were the only
two people that had any sort of reaction.

They were taken aback momentarily, and then, in the same instant, both



Chapter Sixteen